There isn’t a lot of competition in the West Valley for a girls basketball team like Goodyear Millennium, especially in the summer.
So when the Tigers received an invitation to participate in the inaugural Monarch Sports Lady X (Extravaganza) Tournament at Tempe High, “It was a no-brainer,’’ Millennium coach Cory Rojeck said.
Millennium was the only team invited from the west Valley, and the other seven participants were from the talent-rich southeast Valley – Mesa Dobson, Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Highland, Chandler Seton Catholic, Gilbert Mesquite, Phoenix Mountain Pointe and Chandler Valley Christian.
Millennium was the No. 1 seed and played like it.
The Tigers were not flashy, but were quietly efficient and dominant in winning their four games, including Saturday afternoon’s (June 14) 49-41 over third-seeded Hamilton for the title.
“You don’t win a state championship in June, but you can make a statement,’’ Rojeck said.
Guard Raina Perez, a junior-to-be, appears to have stepped up her game and should be one of the top players in the state in 2014-15. She scored 22 points to lead Millennium, and was named the tournament’s MVP.
“She has been a starter ever since she was a freshman,’’ Rojeck said. “She has always been able to score, and she still does, but now she is getting the other girls to score. She rarely makes a bad pass on the (fast) break.
“She also has a great mental game. Her basketball maturity is that of a college kid.’’
Perez said she and her teammates were excited “to play in such a great tournament. There was a lot of good competition and we worked hard.’’
She already is getting looks from colleges such as Arizona State and UCLA.
She said she continues to train and practice, “go all-out. I just have to keep working hard – making every hour, every minute count.’’
Millennium’s success isn’t placed solely on Perez’s shoulders. There are plenty of quality players to help her out – Quynne Huggins on the wing and underneath, Wati Franklin inside and Passionate Amukamara. Perez and Amukamara create a lot of their own opportunities by using their quick hands to knock the ball away at the defensive end.
Rojek also relies on his reserves, and will monitor the injury status of Adriana Zelaya in the hopes of getting her back by the start of 2015. She recently suffered a broken rib, which affects movement.
Hamilton also expects to have a strong season under coach Jeff Kain.
The Huskies showed glimpses of cohesiveness and has some above-average talent – guards Maddie Fredricks and Payton Whitmore and forwards Courtney Colleary and Mikayla Filiere.
Millennium defeated Seton 35-30 in one semifinal earlier Saturday and Hamilton downed Dobson 30-21 in the other semi.
The games were played with two 20-minute halves with a running clock. A made free throw counted two points unless a player had a chance to complete a three-point play after making a basket.