There was a mixture of emotions for the area basketball teams when the Arizona Interscholastic Association State Tournament bracket was announced on Sunday.
The Yuma Catholic boys were announced as No. 8 at Division IV, which is good enough to land a first-round bye — although it has the toughest road of any team that gets the first round off. The Cibola and Shamrock girls both hung on and landed a spot. But the Kofa girls suffered heartbreak when they dropped from No. 23 to No. 25 — and out of the tournament.
The Shamrocks boys (18-2) are the only area team to make the state playoffs and will face the winner between No. 9 Duncan and No. 24 Phoenix Country Day at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Prescott High. It will be the Shamrocks' first game since losing 65-57 to Arizona Lutheran in a Division IV Section I semifinal.
“We're most likely going to have to play all single-digit seeded teams. That No. 8 spot is a really tough draw,” said Yuma Catholic coach Brooks Neumann, whose Shamrocks are one of only two teams in the tournament with two losses or less — undefeated No. 1 Joy Christian being the other.
No. 9 Duncan (14-6) is the favorite against No. 24 Phoenix Country Day (6-11), and it's coming off a two-point loss to No. 2 Desert Christian in a Section II semifinal.
“Duncan plays all man-to-man, pick up at halfcourt and have a couple of good shooters,” Neumann said. “They're just a scrappy team.”
Duncan made it to the Division IV semifinals last year, where it lost to Phoenix Country Day — which ended up winning the championship.
The Cibola girls (13-5) started the Division I Section I tournament at No. 23 and even though they lost their opening game to Westview, the Raiders moved up two spots to No. 21 and play No. 12 Mountain View Marana at 7 p.m. Wednesday. As the No. 6 seed out of Section II, the Mountain Lions split with No. 14 Tucson in the regular season and lost 61-32 to Hamilton in the section tournament.
“We're over the fact of being happy to be there. You want to get to the state tournament and do some damage,” said Cibola coach Justin Hager, who has led the Raiders to the state playoffs for the sixth straight season. The Raiders lost 48-37 to Buena in the first round last year.
Also back to the state tournament are the Yuma Catholic girls, who didn't play in their section tournament but managed to hang on for a No. 23 seed.
“I was confident we were going to get in, but I wasn't overly confident,” said Yuma Catholic coach Bob McGalliard, whose Shamrocks made it to the state tournament as a No. 23 seed after missing the section tournament last year.
The Shamrocks (11-7) play No. 10 Arizona Lutheran at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Prescott High, and it will be their first game since beating Tonopah Valley in the regular season finale on Jan. 30. McGalliard said the 16-day break between games has been a good thing because many of the Shamrocks battled the flu — including leading scorer Madison Brazeel —and it's given post Mary Terkelsen time to heal an injured ankle.
Arizona Lutheran has not lost a game by double-digits all year long and is coming off a five-point defeat to No. 1 Salt River in a Division IV Section I semifinal. The Coyotes (14-6) beat No. 2 Tempe Prep 53-51 in the regular season finale.
“Two years back we played them at home and they have most of the same players, so we have a feel for what they like to do,” McGalliard said. The Shamrocks beat the Coyotes 33-28 in 2011.
While the Shamrocks held on to their No. 23 seed, the Kofa girls basketball team held the same rank at Division I on Saturday but when the bracket was announced, they bumped down two spots to No. 25.
“This is my first year with power points so I was familiarizing myself with it, but on Saturday I saw that we were 23, so I thought we would make it,” Kofa coach Mary Kaye Garcia said.
The Kings (13-5) won their final four games to make the Section I tournament then began an up-and-down week. Kofa was jumped by Chaparral after the first section game, but the Kings boosted back up to No. 23 before finally becoming No. 25.
“Honestly, I didn't know what to think,” Garcia said. “It was kind of a roller coaster ride.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.