WINDOW ROCKThe Valley Sanders girls’ basketball team has certainly been here before.
After coming up short in the state championship game in both 2013 and 2015, the Lady Pirates prove that the third time is a charm.
The Lady Pirates finally got the monkey off their back when they claimed last year’s Division V state crown before a large audience at the Prescott Valley Event Center over conference rivals Rock Point.
Despite their recent success, Valley coach Dorothy Mitchell wants her team to rethink how they approach this year’s Class 2A state tournament. Rather than bask in their glory, she wants them to de-emphasize their role as the defending state champs.
“I really don’t reinforce the idea that they are state champions,” Mitchell said. “This is a new season and I challenged them to not think of the past and let’s think about what we can do right now.”
Valley senior Cherelle Speen took part in the latter two of those finals and she remembers vividly the feelings from both outcomes.
“Being part of the state runner-up team was hard, but when we won state that was a different feeling,” she said.
On Sunday the Pirates were given the No. 5 seed when the Arizona Interscholastic Association released the 2A bracket despite sporting a 21-2 record. Valley will open the state tournament on Friday against No. 12 Tonopah Valley at 3 p.m. at Prescott High School. The championship game is scheduled for Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. at the Prescott Valley Event Center.
Despite being snubbed for one of the top seeds, the Pirates have every reason to believe that they can make a fourth trip to the state finals. By playing the likes of 3A North powerhouses Page and Ganado, the Pirates played one of the toughest schedules among 2A teams.
“Playing those teams was a challenge for us, but it gave us an idea of what we needed to work on,” sophomore guard Valiyah Yazzie said. “Because of that, I think we are playing our best basketball right now.”
With it being a reclassification year, Mitchell conceded that the path to the state championship game is going to be filled with a lot of unknowns. With a bevy on new teams aligned to Class 2A, Mitchell said she does not know what to expect from teams that were seeded in front of Valley, headed by Thatcher, the Division IV winner last year.