Best in the West: Enter 2019 Preview

It’s winter season and we’re only a month away from the February Frenzy! We’re back with the Best in the West looking at a few standouts so far in winter sports. Let’s jump in!

Westside Unbeatens

The Ironwood Eagles are a perfect 9-0 to start out the season coming off a win against Independence at Talking Stick Resort Arena. With four wins by thirty or more, the Eagles are ranked only behind Gilbert in the 5A Conference.


Directly behind Ironwood is another west side bird, the Apollo Hawks. Also 9-0, Apollo has been led by senior, Emmanuel Taban, averaging 17 points and six rebounds per game. Underclassmen are on the rise, though, with sophomore, Paris Wood, and freshman, Ahamed Mohamed averaging second and third in scoring. The Eagles and Hawks are on a collision course and will face off on Jan. 15, possible still ranked as two of the top three teams in 5A.

Another team making noise on the west side is the 1A girl’s basketball squad at Anthem Prep. The Eagles are ranked first in the 1A Conference at a flawless 8-0 record. The name to remember is senior, Brenna Pillsbury, averaging 24 points per game, second in the AIA regardless of conference. On top of that offensive production, the team has been working the glass with sophomore, Callyn Crandall, leading the team with eight rebounds per game. Watch out for this team come February.

 

Millennium Girls Continue to Roll

Girls athletics at Millennium had the bar set high in November after volleyball took home a state championship in the 5A Conference. The winter teams are living up to any possible expectations with girls soccer and basketball combining for a 12-0 record holding a second place ranking in both sports.


Millennium girls soccer has outscored opponents 48-2 in only five games this season. Underclassmen have jumped into the spotlight this season. Sophomore, Gabriella Sangillo leads the team with 19 goals at winter break, and freshman, Keakalina Barnes, contributed a hattrick in the Tigers’ 15-0 win against Betty Fairfax.

The Millennium girls basketball team is highlighted by their defensive productivity averaging a final score of 81-21. Twice this year the Tigers have held opponents to single digits while reaching triple digits in one game. Including tournament games, senior, Keakalina Barnes, and junior, Ali Zelaya, are averaging over 13 points per game and helped knock off Florida’s IMG Academy at the La Jolla Country Day Tournament in Colorado.


With both teams ranked second in their sports, don’t be surprised if Millennium holds three 5A girls titles moving into the spring season.

 

Winter Football Recap

The west side brought home two football state championships in 2018. The Centennial Coyotes took the title in the 5A Conference, defeating Notre Dame Prep by 57, and Northwest Christian won the 3A conference, defeating Yuma Catholic in triple overtime.


The ‘Yotes are always in contention under coach, Richard Taylor, but proved to be beyond dominant in the 5A Conference outscoring opponents by 39 points on average. The offseason started off with a loss, though, in the Gieco State Champions Bowl when Centennial was shutout for the first time since week two in the 1997 season. A lot of Centennial’s core will be returning next season. After three years of dominating teams, this lone off-season loss might make the ‘Yotes an even better team in 2019.

The 6A Conference was met by a very loud and rambunctious west valley team when the Liberty Lions made a statement by receiving the fourth-place ranking a the season’s end. The playoffs ended abruptly when they were knocked off by fifth-seeded Highland. Liberty loses a plethora of defensive experience with Ryan Puskas and Braxten Croteau graduating and playing for Cal in college. The offense will miss explosive rusher, Jett Kinsch, and phenomenal receiving target Cameron Ellis. Youngers on both sides of the ball will return with force though as defender Jax Stam and quarterback Johan Guevara continue their development in the offseason.


Desert Edge was the obvious number three team in the 4A Conference behind Saguaro and Salpointe Catholic. After giving the eventual state champions, Saguaro, a run for their money in the regular season, no one saw a 61-6 blowout coming in the state semifinals to the Sabercats. Regardless of how the year ended, the Scorpions will be a 4A contender for a long time, especially with freshman quarterback, Adryan Lara, developing and learning more information every time his team takes on one of the best.

 

February Frenzy is on its way and spring football is coming as well! Be sure to stay on Sports360AZ for all your high school sports news and be sure to go support your teams in 2019.