For the second consecutive season, the Sedona Red Rock High School girls basketball team has reached the Final Four of the Arizona Interscholastic Association State Championship.
The sixth-seeded Scorpions [30-1, 10-0 2A Central] will face off with No. 2 seed Leading Edge Academy — Gilbert, in what is now called the 2A State Championship, at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 at the Prescott Valley Event Center.
“They’re excited,” Scorpions head coach Dave Moncibaez said. “I told the girls last year when we got to the Final Four, you know we might never get back, there’s a lot of upsets that happen .... I think they want it just a little bit more than they did last year. Not that they didn’t, but they got a taste so they want the whole thing.”
The Spartans, who enter the tournament with a 29-2 overall record and 12-0 in the 2A Metro South Section, sport a bigger lineup than Red Rock.
They have four players who stand at six feet or taller, but Moncibaez likes the matchup.
“They’re big and athletic, but, you know, we like to play those types of teams because we like to run-and-gun, and hopefully we can play our game and wear them out,” Moncibaez said. “And it might be one of those fourth-quarter victories where we pull it out, but we’re definitely going to try to run them out of the gym if we can.”
Leading Edge is also a relatively young team with only one senior and six total upperclassmen. To make the final push of the season, the Scorpions will start slow and build up during the week.
“We’re definitely going to rest and watch film,” Moncibaez said. “Take care of our bumps and bruises and kind of tone it up from there, and hopefully get some energy at the end of the week.”
The teams share one common opponent: Glendale Preparatory Academy, a 2A Central Section rival of the Scorpions. On Nov. 30 the Spartans won 63-24, while the Scorpions won 57-29 on Jan. 17 and 53-21 on Feb. 3.
The Spartans average 66 points per game while giving up 27; The Scorpions score 59 per game and give up 28.
There are a number of coincidental similarities between the 2016 and 2017 tournaments for the Scorpions.
In 2016 they entered the tournament, which then had 24 teams, as the No. 6 seed and got a first-round bye.
Red Rock defeated No. 11 River Valley High School 58-46 in the second round. In the 16-team format in 2017, it beat No. 11 seed San Carlos High School 53-43 in the first round.
In the 2016 quarterfinals it won by a wider margin, beating No. 3 seed Gilbert Christian High School 42-22. This season it beat No. 14 Many Farms High School, who upset No. 3 seed Scottsdale Christian Academy, 47-29.
In the 2016 Final Four the Scorpions came up against No. 2 Thatcher High School, falling 58-46. This year they play the No. 2 seed again in Leading Edge.
On Saturday, Feb. 18 Thatcher, last year’s champion and this year’s No. 1 seed, was upset by No. 9 Alchesay High School. Alchesay plays No. 5 seed Valley [Sanders] High School in the other semifinal. Valley is the defending Division V champion from 2016.
Last year it was called the Division IV State Championship, but before the 2016-17 academic year began the AIA realigned and renamed its divisions.