Tempe High put a respectable boys basketball team on the floor last season after its 4A-II state title run fell one win short in 2011 and its 2012 state tourney appearance in D-II was one-and-done.
Longtime Valley coach Paul Long had a rebuilt team compile an 18-8 record last season, but Tempe's power-ranking just wasn't good enough to crack the top 24 for a state tournament berth with a 13-5 mark in power-point contests.
Long stepped aside after last year and Tempe's third coach in as many seasons, Tom Saltzstein, has the Buffs revved up with a high-octane attack. Tempe sports an unblemished record after seven games heading to Wednesday (Dec. 18) section contest at Coronado. Saltzstein inherited seven of Tempe's top eight players from a year ago. So far it's got the look of a hungry team that happens to be very good.
Tempe has won each of seven games by at least 10 points, including knocking off Gilbert Christian by 19 in the first section game for both teams last week and winning the West Side Tip off Classic at Verrado High the second week of the season.
"We're trying to make growth strides every day in regards to learning to play together and learning to play good, solid, aggressive and intelligent defense," Saltzstein said.
Saltzstein currently has four players scoring in double figures -- forwards James Carrethers, Emanuel Gant and Jashawn Brown. Guard Delano Jones, who led the Buffs in scoring last year, also is among that group. Gant, Brown, and Carrethers are getting the job done on the boards averaging at least six per game. There's plenty of playmaking going on with A.D. Hart, Oscar Lopez, Kalun White and Gant handing our three assists per game.
Tempe's point production is due in no small part to its aggressive defense. The Buffs are averaging 81 points a game and have totated 96 twice so far. Tempe should get a strong test the day after Christmas at the annual McClintock Holiday Shootout. The Buffs open play with D-I Basha and could see the likes of more D-I schools such as Desert Ridge, Mountain Pointe or Brophy as the tournament progresses.
2013 NIKE TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
The tournament released its 84-team field and bracketing on Tuesday afternoon. It consists of 11 divisions -- 10 with eight teams and one with four. Twenty-one Arizona schools are entered. The tournament begins play on Thursday Dec. 19 and continues Friday Dec. 20 and concludes Saturday Dec. 21. Five Chandler high schools will host games -- Arizona College Preparatory, Basha, Chandler, Hamilton and Perry high schools.
Here are the Arizona teams participating with their division assignment in parentheses: Basha (Green); Betty Fairfax (Purple); Boulder Creek (Red); Chandler (Black); Chaparral (Green); Corona del Sol (Purple); Desert Vista (White); Dobson (White); Hamilton (Mike Desper); Marcos de Niza (Red); Mesquite (John Anderson); Mountain Pointe (John Anderson); Perry (Purple); Poston Butte (Purple); Red Mountain (Red); St. Mary's (Sliver); South Mountain (Black); Tolleson (Green); Valley Vista (Green); Westview (Mike Desper); Williams Field (Black).
Here are Thursday (Dec. 19) first-round games for Arizona schools in chronological order of game time:
10 a.m. -- Chandler vs. St. Francis at Perry HS; Westview vs. Miramonte at Basha HS; Basha vs. Amador Valley at ACP; St. Mary's vs. Pueblo County at Chandler HS. 11:30 a.m. -- South Mountain vs. Warren at Perry HS; Red Mountain vs. West Campus at ACP; 1 p.m. -- Hamilton vs. Brea Olinda at Basha HS; 2:30 p.m -- Perry vs. Marlborough at Perry HS; Boulder Creek vs. Huntington Beach at ACP; 4 p.m. -- Mesquite vs. Viewmont at Chandler HS; Williams Field vs. Animo South at Perry HS; Valley Vista vs. Horizon, Colo. at ACP; 5:30 p.m. -- Tolleson vs. Cherry Creek at Perry HS; Betty Fairfax vs. Bradshaw Christiain at Perry HS; Marcos de Niza vs. Mater Dei Catholic at ACP; Desert Vista vs. E.S. Laurent at Basha HS; Dobson vs. Liberty, Nev. at Chandler HS; 7 p.m. - Mountain Pointe vs. Chaminade College Prep at Chandler HS; Chaparral vs. Horizon Christian at ACP; Corona del Sol vs. Pueblo West at Perry HS; Poston Butte vs. Green Valley at Hamilton HS.
For a complete list of brackets and game times for the rest of the teams and tournament go to www.niketournamentofchampions. Click on basketball and then click the appropriate tab on the right for schedules and results.