The high point for the boys basketball program was more than 40 years ago, when its team coached by Wayne Kindall and led by Ron Davis and Steve Burke won Arizona’s big-school championship in 1972.
Davis went on to play at Washington State and briefly in the NBA and Burke went on to become a championship girls coach at Phoenix Thunderbird and now is guiding the boys program at Buckeye Youngker.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge for Maryvale in the years that have passed, and the Panthers have been constantly swimming upstream, never quite finding their way back to prominence. Their best record in recent years was 16-14 in the 2008-09 season.
Sebastian Payton is in his third season as head coach and says he is “trying to change the culture, teaching the guys to learn how to play.’’
It is a noble quest for Payton and one can’t help but root for that approach, for west Phoenix to have some success beyond football, and even that has fallen by the wayside.
“We have five sophomores this year. We want them to learn to play for each other and they are trying to do that,’’ Payton said.
The proof was in Maryvale’s 62-52 victory over neighborhood rival Phoenix Trevor Browne in Monday’s (Dec. 30) opening round of the Phoenix Union High School District Holiday Tournament at Phoenix South Mountain. The tournament continues Tuesday (Dec. 31), then resumes on Thursday (Jan. 2) through Saturday (Jan. 4).
Maryvale now stands at 5-6, only one win away from equaling its record from all of last season.
Payton has his team playing aggressive defense, crashing the boards and trying to mix a fast break with a more traditional set-up style. The pieces appear to be there. One big piece is Jorge Cano, a 6-foot-5 senior who led the team with 23 points.
You can’t coach height, however, and Payton will need to find someone who can step in and play a similar role of a guy who is capable of being dominant at times.
Maryvale started strong against Trevor Browne, but the Bruins (5-6) came back to edge in front at halftime.
The third quarter was all Maryvale (20-2 advantage).
Trevor Browne attempted to come back and got as close as 51-43 with about five minutes to play. It didn’t help, however, that one of the Bruins’ top players was ejected after being assessed a pair of technical fouls.
Payton wants his players to avoid a similar fate and play under control even in an emotional game against its neighbor.
“We want our players to keep their emotions in check,’’ Payton said. “They are becoming men and we want our men to make the right decisions.’’