AHS Basketball

Tyler Rosenfeld, Ben Hancock, Joel Zavala, Layne Spiekerman, Cameron Kaye, Brandon Austin, Luke Traynor, Brad Gooch, Will Lozevski, Jamison Fox, Colin Christoffersen, James Poplawski, Evan Clayton and Spencer Hoos.

 

While making it to state is at the top of the list for neighborhood high school basketball teams this season, they’re also playing to their other strengths: keeping the game fun and building relationships with teammates and coaches. Read on to see how our area teams are faring as they approach their final games.

Arcadia Girls 

The Lady Titans passed the halfway point of the season with a record of 13 wins and five losses with five games left on the schedule as of press time. 

With five seniors on this season’s squad, Coach Ryan Walcott said that their greatest strength is the team chemistry. 

“There is a mixture of upper and lower classmen; experience from the seniors is huge! They show great leadership and the work ethic they provide is rubbing off on the underclassmen. You can see the eagerness in them wanting to get better,” Walcott said. 

He explained that, like all great teams, the Titans are never satisfied with what they have accomplished so far. 

“I’m super proud of the girls and the commitment they give to the program, but we are humble enough to understand that there is work still to be done. We have team goals,” he said. 

Some of the role players this season include seniors Dallas Ligon and Katherine Ducharme. 

Walcott said that Dallas is a leader on and off the court and is always ready to do her part to help her team succeed. 

“She can score both from inside and outside while grabbing 4-7 rebounds a game,” he said.

Katherine is currently leading the region in rebounds at 11 a game, while averaging double digits in points at 10 and contributing 2.5 blocks a game. 

“Our engine – when she goes, we go – is Tianna Knighton,” Walcott said.

Tianna is a sophomore and averages 18.5 points a game. She also leads the team in steals and assists and thrives on helping those around her. 

“I stay motivated knowing basketball is what I love to do,” Tianna said. “Every time I get the privilege to step on the court, it reminds of how the game has brought so many people together. We all push each other on and off the court to be good individuals and be better than the people we were the day before.”

“‘Together, we attack’ is our motto. We’re ready to send the seniors off the way they deserve by making State Playoffs,” Walcott said. 

Arcadia Boys

So far, the Titans have a record of 12 wins and eight losses. They play around 25 games in total during the five-month season. 

“We’ve got 14 players on the roster, and their strengths lie in their work ethic. They play hard and constantly work on their basketball IQ,” Coach Stephen Danford said. “One thing they need to work on is their offensive consistency.”

Danford said the team as a whole contributes to their success, and players like Will Lozevski, Brandon Austin, James Poplawski, Luke Traynor and Evan Clayton help keep morale high and know how to play the game the right way.

“Our ultimate goal is to grow as a team and as individuals. And, of course, compete for championships. Our motto is ‘why not us?’ That keeps us going on and off the court,” Danford said. 

Senior Will Lozevski said his goals are to get better every day, have fun and win games. He’s been playing the game since elementary school. 

“Success makes the season fun, but just being with my teammates every day is the best thing,” Will said. “Our work ethic is the greatest strength. We have known each other since we were young, and it’s great to finish my high school playing days with the guys I’ve grown up with.”

Brophy 

The Broncos are currently ranked No. 1 on AZPreps365.com in the 6A Power Rankings,  with 16 wins and two losses. The squad of 14 will play 18 games and two tournaments this season. 

“Our team has embraced forging an identity that starts with being a strong defensive team, which has enabled us to be competitive in each of our games. I think this is also an unselfish group, so they share the ball well, which allows us to take great shots,” Coach Matt Hooten said. 

Hooten also explained that the group should continue focusing on getting better.

“Teams that can continue improving throughout the season are often the ones that get further into the playoffs,” he said. 

The Broncos returned four starters (and seven rotation players) off last year’s state semifinal team. So far, they’ve had eight different players start at least four games this season: Miles Nash, Braeden Speed, Patrick Chew, Arman Madi, JP Musselmann, Trey Phillips, Connor Fitzgerald and Jacob Dolasinski.

“Point guard and senior Miles Nash is an elite defender who does a great job of pressuring our opponents’ point guards and creating turnover opportunities for our team,” Hooten said. “He also does a great job of getting into the paint and creating shots for his teammates and is a vocal team leader on the floor.”

Hooten had words of praise for all teammates but said this of sophomore guard Braeden and junior wing Arman: 

“Our leading scorer last year, Arman, is an excellent shooter (43% from three FG last year) and has terrific court vision. At 6’6”, he is a match-up problem for opposing teams because he can use his size against smaller players, and he can take more prominent players out onto the perimeter.”

“Braeden typically guards our opponents’ best perimeter scoring threat, and he has done a terrific job in that role for the season. He has helped to hold several prolific scorers well under their season scoring average, including one of the state’s premier scorers (33 points per game) to six points during the Visit Mesa Basketball Challenge last month. He is also our second-leading scorer.”

Hooten said that the team’s ultimate goal is to play their best game of the season in the next game on their schedule. 

“If we focus on that, we feel like wins/losses will take care of themselves,” he said. 

“This season, my goal is to put a banner up on the north wall of Brophy’s gym and be able to cut down a net,” senior wing JP said. [The north wall of Brophy’s gym is where the school puts up sports teams’ state championship banners.] “This year, our team’s chemistry is solid because we have almost all been able to play together for two or three years so that we can understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Veritas Girls

Veritas girls’ basketball is playing with only eight teammates, but their spirit hasn’t wavered so far – as of press time, the Lady Falcons have won eight games and lost two, with 16 total games played in a season. 

According to Coach Rebecca Lane, the squad’s strengths lie in their defense.

“Our team averages 17 steals a game and 18 deflections a game,” Lane said. “As coaches, we encourage them to communicate with each other and with us. We ensure that they have a safe environment to build confidence and life skills outside of dribbling, passing and shooting.”

Lane continued, saying that the Falcons need to continue to work on their chemistry and learn each other’s movements and tendencies.

Practices start with a team drill. The entire team has a goal they must hit – and if not, the point difference from their goal is equal to running time at the end of practice. 

“They control their fate, and we sometimes let them take off running time with pressure free throws,” Lane said. “Some days, we review individual skill work so that each player is perfecting their craft or learning something new. We run through our plays to keep it fresh in their mental and physical memory.” 

Lane said that practices are fast-paced, engaging, competitive and, most importantly, fun.

“It may sound cliché, but every member of our team is a key player – when you have a short bench, there is little room for error,” she said. “We expect our team to strive for excellence in their role on the team.”

Lane said there are three consistent performers: McKenzie Perrault, Liani Ortiz and Jaz Cobb. McKenzie averages seven rebounds, 13 forced turnovers and nine points a game. Liani averages 15 points and three assists a game, while Jaz averages 11 rebounds and 14 points a game. 

“My goal is to make sure the athletes have fun and learn something new. Our goal is to make an appearance at state – something this program has never done and something this group is capable of doing,” Lane said. 

Sophomore Liani has been playing basketball for nine years. Her goal echoes that of Coach Lane. 

“We have such great coaches and a fun team, and I think our relationships with each other is one of our greatest strengths,” she said. Liani’s teammate Jaz had the same thoughts:

“We have good sportsmanship; we keep and lift each other when we need it, we don’t get on one another,’” Jaz said.

Veritas Boys

On the other side of the court, the Veritas boys’ team is currently at seven wins and nine losses, with 26 players on the team. This year, they will play 18 regular-season games – the final three at Parker High School, NFL Yet Academy and Phoenix Christian, plus a tournament. 

“We take pride in our defensive effort, Coach Brooks Dockter said. “On the other hand, on some game nights, we struggle to score. We’ve put a lot of emphasis the last couple of weeks on the offensive end.”

This season’s group is the largest that Dockter has coached since starting at Veritas. 

“We’ve seen a ton of growth in the first half,” he said. “We have a lot of players that play key roles for us. Max Marvin leads in scoring with a little over 14 points per game. Casen Lentz is averaging eight rebounds a game and has had multiple games where he’s had a double-double in points and rebounds. Tyler Chung is our point guard averaging more than 10 points per game and around five assists.”

Dockter said that their goal is, of course, to make the state tournament.

“Our other goal is to stay healthy and safe and spend as much time on the court with our teammates as possible, especially after last year’s shortened season,” Dockter said. “Our team motto is ‘embrace the opportunity,’ and we intend to do just that.”

Xavier

The Xavier Gators started their basketball practices in November, ending the season on February 8. As of press time, they’ve had 11 wins and five losses, and are first place in the 6A division. 

There are 18 regular-season games with two additional invitational tournaments. Xavier usually plays 3-4 games during the tournament.

“I have 14 players on the roster, and a majority of them have a high basketball IQ. They can play on both ends of the court, and they have a great work ethic,” Coach Jennifer Gillom said. “The team needs to continue to increase their confidence and be more physical on the court.”

According to Gillom, practices are intense and focused. 

“My players come to practice every day with the mindset of improving daily by giving it their all and paying attention to details,” she said. “We always say ‘defense-first.’”

Gillom said that this season, sophomore Sarah Miller has been consistent in being the leading scorer and rebounder for the Gators. Sienna Cherwinski and Dominique Nesland are two strong guards who can score and lead their team in assists. Maureen Ulrich continues to improve and is a massive part of the team’s success.

Gillom said that this season’s goal is to get back to the State Finals and ultimately win a state championship for the first time at Xavier. 

Sarah, who has played for around five years, said that her goal for the season is to sharpen her mental basketball skills and help the team elevate to win a state championship. 

“Seeing how we play as a team during practice makes me confident that we can get through any challenge that comes across us,” she said. 

Sienna echoes these feelings: “I have been playing basketball for 12 years, and my number one goal is to win a state championship. I stay motivated by remembering all the hard work I put in and constantly reminding myself of my main goal.”