After graduating eight seniors last spring, including Alex Barcello and Saben Lee who are now playing at Division I schools, the Aztecs, with only three returning players from last season’s 6A State Championship second-place team, started the 2017-18 season going 3-1 at the Fear the Hop Tournament held Nov. 20-25 at Mesa High School.
Corona defeated Mountain Ridge, 71-59; Skyline, 62-51; and Highland, 56-53, but lost to Hamilton, 63-51.
“We are excited about this season,” said head coach Neil MacDonald. “We have a lot of new players on the varsity squad and are ready to see what this group can accomplish.”
The sole returning starter, 6-foor-2 senior forward Melek Alexander—along with the two other returning players, sophomore guards 6-foot-3 Dalen Terry and six-footer Eric Blackwell—have helped get the team off to a good start.
“All three of the returning players from last season’s team, Melek, Dalen and Eric, played significant minutes last year and have emerged to be our three best offensive players so far this season.”
As far as defense goes, every player is expected to play tough defense, according to MacDonald.
The team is also fortunate to have several players from last season’s JV team who only lost one game all season.
“Miles Allen, Keb Summers, Derek Zarate, Kobee Marion, Sha-Vere Yarde and Hale Samuelson, who were on our 17-1 JV team last season, are now playing on our Varsity team,” said MacDonald.
“These players will have significant roles this season.”
Other members of the team expected to contribute to the team’s success on and off the court are Mitch Laukonen, Vince Dhouti, Jason Reval and Illen Ortet.
Once again Corona basketball will center around more than just winning.
“Our expectations are the same every year for all of our players,” said MacDonald. “Our program revolves around attitude and effort, not outcomes.”
Besides attitude and effort, MacDonald feels his team’s depth will prove to be the Aztecs strength as the team is scheduled to play 26 games this season before the sectionals and state playoffs start.
Corona was scheduled to play at Mesa Mountain View on Nov. 28, at home against North on Nov. 30 and then Boulder Creek on Dec. 5 before playing at Copper Canyon on Dec. 7. All games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
During the winter break, the Aztecs are scheduled to play Windward, out of Los Angeles, on Dec. 16 at the Desert Classic held at Rancho Solano Prep before playing at the McClintock Shootout Dec. 26-29.
Marcos de Niza Boys Basketball
The Division 4A Padres started the 2017-18 season playing against last year’s 6A state championship team, the Basha Bears, in the Salpointe Catholic Tipoff Classic, Nov. 20, held in Tucson.
Although Marcos lost to the Bears, 51-43, six players scored points in the game, including 6-foot-1 senior forward Janathon Bolds who made six out of his eight two-point attempts to shoot 75 percent. Bolds scored a team high 17 points.
Junior guard Lovonne Brunson, at 6-foot-4, was next with 10 points and eight rebounds, while 6-foot-1 senior guard Orion Bryant pulled down six rebounds.
The Padres lost two more times—86-70 against Mesquite and 63-43 against Cholla—but they did defeat North 74-58 and Rincon University, 69-65 at the Classic.
Nine Marcos players scored against North, with Brunson and Bolds once again leading the team in points. Brunson ended the game with 24 points and 13 rebounds while Bolds scored 22 points, shooting 10 for 10 in two-pointers or an incredible 100 percent from the field. His two other points were from free throws.
Junior Torren Union pulled down six rebounds against North and scored 10 points in the Padres win against Rincon. Union hit both his three-pointers to shoot 100 percent, along with pulling down five rebounds.
Marcos had four players score more than 10 points against Rincon, including Brunson who led all scorers with 27 points. Bolds put in 13 points while Bryant scored 12 and Union 10.
Senior Chris Terell and junior JJ Hill both had blocks against Rincon, while Union and Bryant led the team in assists with four each.
Other members of the team contributing on and off the court include seniors Jalen Porter, Charles Newton and Sunny Ozuna; junior Ty Frazier; and sophomores Russell Lingruen and Tommie Lingruen.
The Padres have three away games to start the regular season. They were scheduled to play at Bradshaw Mountain in Prescott on Nov. 28, at Combs in San Tan Valley on Nov. 30 and at Cortez on Dec. 1.
Marcos then had three home games scheduled—on Dec. 5 against Buckeye, Dec. 7 against Shadow Mountain and Dec. 12 against Cactus Shadows.