PHOENIX — It was a raucous environment from the start at the 6A Arizona State Basketball Championship game between Corona Del Sol and Basha at Grand Canyon University last Tuesday evening.
With the fans segregated by their school allegiance on opposing sides of the arena, one didn’t even have to watch the game to know what was happening. Each school also brought their own student section that went from the floor to the top of the first level which kept the intensity high and the humorous insults aplenty.
On the court between the two fanbases, the teams were polar opposites.
Tempe Corona Del Sol features two Division-I players, Arizona’s Alex Barcello and Vanderbilt's Saben Lee. After these two guards, however, the options dwindled fast — an issue that would become even more apparent as the game moved on.
For Chandler Basha, they played a more methodical game without any one player forcing the action. Their ability to play inside-out through 6-foot-5 senior forward Gabe McGlothan hurt a CDS team that didn’t have the size to battle down low.
McGlothan — who had 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and three steals — led the way on both ends of the court and his teammates fed off of him. With double teams coming throughout the second half, the center was able to find open teammates beyond the arc, something that ended up crippling Corona.
The defining moment was Basha’s 11-2 run, including three-straight threes by senior forward Terrell Brown to put the Bears ahead in the second quarter. Brown finished the evening with 23 points.
The fourth quarter was intense and high scoring, but Basha, with sound fundamentals, was able to withstand a barrage of threes by Saben Lee to take home the state championship trophy for the first time in over a decade.
The Arizona Connection
Alex Barcello, Arizona’s first commit of the 2017 class, did everything he could in this game, scoring 23 points in the first three quarters. He wound up finishing the game with a team-high 25.
The 6-foot-2 point guard reminded me of a slightly more offensive-minded T.J. McConnell. Barcello played full court defense nearly the entire game, and he was on the court for all but a minute.
His motor is high and he’s not afraid to put his nose in the action. The future U of A guard was also not afraid to go to the floor for loose balls, something I presume coach Sean Miller liked to see from just a few rows away while sitting with who I assumed to be Alex’s father.
However, you could also tell Barcello was coasting a bit on defense, especially when the person he was guarding was five inches shorter and not an offensive threat. This might have be a tactic he could use to stay rested in high school, but it’ll surely be a move that will get him benched in college — though he is smart enough to understand the differences.
On the other side of the court, Barcello had his way for most of the game.
He had ten points in the first quarter and most impressively knew when to pull up for a mid-range jump shot/floater instead of taking it all the way to the hoop and potentially getting it blocked. He also showed good range, knocking in a couple outside shots to keep the defense honest.
On the team level, Corona Del Sol didn’t run much pick-and-roll, instead electing to let Barcello and Lee go one-on-one to the hoop, something that stopped working in the second half. This forced a lot of errant passes or blocked/missed shots, giving Basha fast break opportunities which they capitalized on.
This offensive structure also marginalized their two best players’ ability to score. A simple ball screen would have given the two guards more opportunities to create for themselves and their teammates.
A two-time state champ, Barcello leaves as one of the best Arizona high school players the state has seen in recent years. With his focus on graduating and then heading down to Tucson, he’ll need to bulk up in order to continue his physical play at the collegiate level.
He might not have been able to raise the trophy above his head this year, but one year from now, he’ll surely be hoping to raise one in San Antonio.
You can follow Alec on Twitter: @UofAlec