The state's four divisions head to the final week of play with everything on the line, beginning with quarterfinals for Division I and Division II girls on Tuesday (Feb. 25), Division II boys and Division III boys and girls on Wednesday (Feb. 26) and Division I boys and Division IV boys and girls on Thursday (Feb. 27). Some things to watch in each of those divisions and rounds:
Division I girls -- The surprise of the elite eight is Chaparral. The Firebirds reversed two losses to Tolleson in the opening round and knocked off No. 4 Liberty in the second round after falling a week or so earlier to same. Westview, a semifinalist last year is next and figures to give Chaparral a tough time. Westview topped Chaparral by 37 points in the season opener. Five of the eight games in the second round were decided by six points or less. Will the quarters be just as tight? Perhaps. #1 Dobson has beaten everyone left in the tournament except Desert Vista and plays # 8 Millennium for the first time. #5 Desert Vista vs. # 4 Mountain Pointe saw Desert Vista escape Mountain Pointe on MLK Day. #7 Hamilton vs. #2 Mesquite met earlier with Mesquite prevailing while Hamilton was missing senior leader Ashlee Moore in that one.
Division II girls -- It wouldn't be far-fetched to believe as the regular season wound down that a Seton-South Mountain matchup would be the title game. Instead with South getting upset in sectionals the teams are facing off in the quarterfinals. It's a shame, but it is what it is. Should be a great game. Four of the top eight seeds (Coconino, Thunderbird, Flowing Wells and Sierra Linda) bowed out in the second round. Defending champ Saguaro has punished foes in its first two games by an average of 30 points. None of the eight tournaments except this one has two double-digit seeds facing off in the quarters. D-II girls has two -- (Saguaro #11 and Peoria #18) winner gets Cienega or Cibola and (#12 Buckeye vs. #13 Kingman) winner gets Buckeye or Kingman.
Division II boys -- Shadow Mountain was many followers choice to win this division, but a loss in the sectional final made the Matadors task much tougher. That task continues with #8 Shadow Mountain taking on #1 Salpointe at least a round early. Shadow Mountain narrowly escaped Catalina Foothills in the second round. Gilbert Christian, which took its lumps during the season playing several D-I schools, is competing with an interim coach after Jerome Joseph abruptly resigned as the tournament began. The Knghts facde No. 3 Cienega after polishing off Cactus Shadows by 15 in the second round -- the team that bumped Shadow Mountain to #8. Arcadia, the lowest seed remaining in any tournament at #23, has beaten defending champ Paradise Valley and Lake Havasu, the team that rose from the mid-30s to No. 7 by winning its sectional. Arcadia gets a rematch from early December with #2 Tempe. The bottom half of the bracket may yield a Tempe and #3 Flagstaff in the semifinals. Flag must get by surprising #6 Shadow Ridge.
Division III girls -- The top eight seeds are intact in the quarterfinals. Leading the pack is No. 1 seed Valley Christian, the only team in the state that remains unbeaten (31-0). No. 8 Page gets a crack at VC on Wednesday in Prescott Valley. Page gave VC one of its few close games, losing by 10 in mid-December. Valley Christian is trying to be the first non-Northern Arizona school to win D-III (3A) since Miami knocked off Coconino in 1987 (26 years ago). The other quarterfinals are #5 Thatcher vs. #4 Window Rock, #3 Pusch Ridge vs. #6 Estrella Foothills and #7 Fountain Hills vs. # 2 Winslow. Winslow is the defending champ. If Valley Christian makes the final it may have to go through three Northern Arizona schools (Page, Window Rock and Winslow).
Division III boys -- A nice mix in the final eight (all top-10 seeds) with not many surprises. The final eight features three teams from Northern Arizona (Chinle, Show Low and Tuba City), three fromt the Valley (Cortez, Combs and Valley Christian) and two from Southern Arizona (Benson and Yuma Catholic). Combs is in its first year playing in a state tournament and giving San Tan Valley something to cheer about this winter. Combs boys hoops team is the first in the school to reach the quarterfinals in a team sport. Two-time defending champ (Gilbert Christian) is up in D-II so a new D-III champ is going to be crowned. Chinle and Valley Christian are the #1 and #2 seeds, respectively.
Division I boys -- No division has a better set of quarterfinals than this one. No. 1 Corona del Sol is after its third straight title and faces the last school to three-peat in the D-I ranks #9 Mesa Mountain View (2005-07). Mountain View has thrashed its first two opponents and needs a combination of perimeter prowess and Payton Dastrup for 32 minutes to entertain an upset of the powerful Casey Benson-led Aztecs. Don't be surprised by the outcomes of any of the other three matchups -- #5 Sunnyslope-#4 Perry, #3 Pinnacel-#6 Gilbert and #7 Hamilton-#2 Dobson. Wouldn't categorize any of those results as an upset.
Division IV girls -- Valley Union is the No. 1 seed and meets No. 8 Duncan for the third time. Valley Union won the first two by a total of five points. Neither Valley Union or Duncan have played an opponent outside of Southern Arizona. The winner gets the winner of #12 Tempe Prep and #4 Gilbert Christian. Gilbert Christian won an earlier meeting by 13, which wasn't as close as the final indicated. Defending champ #3 Salt River and #11 Phoenix Christian have not met this season. #7 St. David takes on # 2 St. Gregory. St. David has beaten all the remaining Southern Arizona schools in the tournament (Valley Union, Duncan and St. Gregory). St. David topped St. Gregory by six last month. Salt River and Gilbert Christian appear to be the more dominant teams, but we will see.
Division IV boys -- The interesting scenario in this tourney's elite eight is three of the four quarterfinals match teams that have not met this season -- #1 Scottsdale Prep-#9 Grand Canyon, No. 12 Tempe Prep-#4 Desert Christian and #14 Duncan-#6 St. Johns. Scottsdale Prep's track record this year is solid with its only Arizona loss coming to D-I Deer Valley. Scottsdale Prep has endured a few close calls and has fared well in tight games. It has lost only twice. #2 Arizona Lutheran and #7 Joy Christian have met prior with ALA prevailing big last month. Most of Joy Christian's losses are to teams in D-I, D-II and D-III, but is 0-3 vs. Scottsdale Prep and Arizona Lutheran. Joy Christian is the defending champ and defeated Arizona Lutheran in last year's title game. ALA and Scottsdale Prep have not played this season, but have a good chance at battling in the title game come Saturday (March 1).