East Valley faces tough road to retain 5A-I gal hoops title

November 22, 2010 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

The East Valley has dominated girls basketball in 5A-I for the past decade plus with Dobson claiming the crown last year. Will the only school to dent that domination in the new millennuium, St. Mary's, strike again?

Quite possibly. The talent-laden 5A Central Region lost a boatload of talent to graduation after last season with state champ Dobson, Gilbert, Mesquite ,Highland and Mountain View hit hard. St. Mary's was not affected much by graduation and returns the bulk of its runner-up talent from 2010. The Knights are the only school not from the East Valley to win the 5A-I title in the last decade, taking the big-school crown in 2004 and 2006.

The teams most likely to recover from graduation losses are Highland and Mountain View, which return a couple starters or at least several players who saw significant time.

The strength of 5A-I may come from the Fiesta Region with Chandler, Hamilton and Xavier returning several starters each and went a couple rounds in the playoffs last season.

A team to watch in 4A-II with a couple key players returning is 4A-II state champ Seton Catholic. Seton played some of its best basketball at the state tournament last year as it punished opponents in every round.

Here's a look at some of the top players from the East Valley and southern Arizona as many schools begin play Monday or later this week in invitationals:

 East Valley players

Seton forward/post Theresa Wirth - Wirth, a 6-0 senior, sets sail on her fourth varsity season. She averaged 17.2 points and a game and 9 rebounds last season. Desert Ridge guard Gabby Washington - Washington, a 5-9 senior, lost  half of last season to injury. She's looking for a year more like her sophomore campaign. Still averaged 15 points game last season despite health issues. Xavier guard Rikki Mulloy - The 5-6 senior runs the offense for the Gators and brings savvy to a team that should hold its own in the Fiesta Region. Hamilton forward Chelcee Pullam - Pullam is a 5-8 senior who is solid in every facet. She averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds a game last season. Highland forward Kaile Magazzeni - Magazzeni, a 6-foot senior, will have her role expand as it has each of the past two seasons. She will be relied on for inside scoring punch and boardwork. Averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds last year. Chandler forward-post Je Zhe Newton - The 6-3 junior is looking to play with more consistency and if she does can be a terror for the Wolves. Put up 11 points and 7 rebounds a game last season. Dobson guard Katherine Hamilton - Only returning starter from last year's state title team, the 5-9 sophomore brings an up-tempo game and superior quickness to most opponents. Averaged seven points and three assistts a game last year. Will be counted on for more this year. Hamilton guard Lauren Evans - Steady contributor her first two seasons for the Huskies the 6-0 junior likely will be looked on for more scoring this year and next. Averaged 11 points a game last year. Salt River guard Michaela Ramirez - Ramirez spearheaded Salt River's run to the 1A title last season. She averaged 22.3 points a game and wasn't able to be contained by teams at 1A level. Coolidge guard Miranda Moore - The Bears senior guard is a scoring machine, racking up 24 points and nearly four assists per game last season. The Bears were tough in the 3A South, but found the going tougher with a first-round exit at state. Seton guard Kayla Bustos - The senior guard is the outside scoring threat for the Sentinels to complement Wirth. Bustos chipped in 15 points a game last season. Mountain View guard Arnecia Hawkins - The junior guard-forward sat out last year after transferring from Red Mountain. Averaged 10 points a game as a freshman. Has been offered by ASU.

Southern Arizona players

Marana forward-post Jamee Swan - The 6-3 senior has offers to Arizona and UCLA. averaged 21.5 points a game last year and keept getting better. Sahuaro guard Cashala Thompson - The 5-8 senior averaged 15.7 points a game and the Cougars hope to make waves in their region this season. Cienega guard Alyssa Deal - The 5-5 guard averaged 13.1 points a game helping the Bobcats to a state tournament berth. Palo Verde guard Darian Saunders - The 6-1 junior  is a force offenisively 15.7 points a game and on the glass averaging 12 boards a game last year. Sunnyside guard-forward Viviana Acosta - The 5-4 senior averaged 15 points a game and five assists. Buena guard Keyondra White - White is a 5-7 guard who averaged 13 points a game and teams up with fellow senior Taneka Rubin to provide much of the Blue Devils' offense.