For the seventh year, West Valley Preps has announced honors for the best girls basketball players it covers in the West Valley.
With so many quality players in the West Valley, a third team was necessary. Here is the all-West Valley Preps girls basketball team:
F — Marisa Davis, (Junior), Valley Vista
F — Ali Zelaya (Senior), Millennium
G — Trayanna Crisp (Sophomore), Millennium
G — Jennah Isai (Sophomore), Valley Vista
G — Myla Lee, (Senior), Cactus
F — Teryn Demaree (Senior), Sunrise Mountain
F — Sara Roskelley (Senior), Deer Valley
G/F — Talia Dial (Sophomore), Dysart
G — Julie Diveney (Junior), Sunrise Mountain
G — Jasmine Singleton (Senior), Millennium
F — Saniyah Neverson (Sophomore), Valley Vista
F — Olivia Lee (Senior), Cactus
F — Michaela Lee (Freshman), Deer Valley
G — Tianna Reeder (Sophomore), Estrella Foothills
G — Alanis Delgado (Junior), Valley Vista
Underclassmen to watch:
Rickelle Andrade, G, (Freshman), Deer Valley; Olivia Arvallo, G, (Freshman), Valley Vista; Halle Bryan, G, (Sophomore), Shadow Ridge; Kelci Connolly, G, (Sophomore), Sunrise Mountain; Mikela Cooper, G/F, (Sophomore), Valley Vista; Mackenzie Dunham, F, (Freshman), Sunrise Mountain; Scarlet Eberlein, F, (Sophomore), Paradise Honors; Kelsey Ericksen, G, (Sophomore), Shadow Ridge, Janae Floyd, G, (Freshman), Mountain Ridge; Gabrielle Gutierrez, G, (Sophomore), Peoria; Riley Henige, F, (Sophomore), Cactus; Kylie Miller, F/C, (Freshman), Centennial; Makayla Ramirez, G, (Sophomore), Willow Canyon.
Player of the year
Ali Zelaya – For the first time in her career, the 6-4 forward was the unquestioned No. 1 focus of the offense. The North Carolina-bound post with small forward skills averaged 19.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. She blocked 1.7 shots per game and discouraged or changed many more in every contest. Valley Vista was the only team to hold her to single digits, partly since the Monsoon know her so well and have three or four bigs to throw at her, sometimes in double teams. But Zelaya shined against other elite competition. In a tournament game against unanimous national No. 1 La Jolla (Calif.) Country Day, she scored 15 of the Tigers 34 points. Zelaya scored a combined 34 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in narrow tournament victories over Florida powerhouses Blanche Ely and Miami Country Day. She capped a legendary career at Millennium by scoring 20 or more points in all four playoff games.
Marisa Davis – Already a first-team all West Valley Preps player, the junior forward was nonetheless the most improved player in the West Valley this year, making the leap from very good to great. Davis improved her ballhandling and, at 6-1, became a lethal threat taking the ball to the hoop and finishing in traffic. With Jennah Isai not near 100 percent after recovering from a torn ACL in the summer, Davis proved she could shoulder the load as a go-to player for a 6A state title team. She was the difference in the regular season win at Millennium, hit the game winner in the semifinal with Gilbert Perry and controlled the boards and hit the free throws in the bruising state title win over Chandler Hamilton.
Trayanna Crisp – By now, Millennium and Valley Vista are the two best programs in the state. So it is not a surprise that each juggernaut has a super sophomore. Isai debuted last season as the runner up in the player of the year competition. This year it was Crisp’s turn for a break out. The 5A offensive player of the year averaged almost 15 points and three assists, plus 3.6 steals on the defensive end. With Isai returning to health, she and Crisp figure to battle with Davis for player of the year honors in 2020-21.
Coach of the year
Rachel Matakas, Valley Vista – As I’ve said in past seasons, it is very difficult for Millennium’s Cory Rojeck and Valley Vista’s Rachel Matakas to win the coach of the year award — largely because of the talent level they have access to. Few teams across the state can compete. (See, Centennial football, Richard Taylor). But Matakas gets the nod this year since her team went undefeated in the state this year, including winning all four games against the small subset of teams that could beat them. Both games against Hamilton, the showdown with Millennium and particularly the semifinal with Perry, went down to the final moments. And in all cases coaching decisions made the difference. With nine legit healthy players at her disposal, Matakas led her deepest team yet and the deepest team in the state. The depth is a great asset, but Matakas had to tweak her lineup in each big game, trying to — and finding — the right rotations for each opponent. And with a team full of young players, that rotation was not always predictable. She also brought Isai off the bench late in the year, preferring to give her knee a break in the opening 4-5 minutes then having her play most of the rest of the game.
Jenn Tolle, Sunrise Mountain – Last year’s award winner was very close to a repeat, as the Mustangs’ growth curve continues off the charts. It’s hard to say which is more impressive — a one-year improvement from 4A also ran to 5A quarterfinalist, or quarterfinalist to runner up. After all, it is harder to progress among Arizona’s best. Yet the Mustangs reached their first state final without a true go-to player or dominant defensive force. Sunrise Mountain knocked off solid 5A teams like Verrado, Desert Mountain, Casteel and Cactus Shadows with its scrappy team defense and an egalitarian offense that featured six players scoring between 5.7 and 11.7 points a contest. That is a tribute to Tolle’s team concept and the growth of this program. And it looks like only the beginning. Demaree and Sydney Bickel were the only two seniors. And being in north Peoria, Sunrise Mountain is far enough from Millennium and Valley Vista to start to attract the best players in its part of town — signs point to this already happening.
MJ Walker, Deer Valley – Building on this theme, Deer Valley looks like it could become the destination program in north-central Glendale and Phoenix (though Greenway may have something to say about that). While the Skyhawks did not quite make the leap the Mustangs did a season ago, an improvement from No. 23 to No. 8 in the 4A ranks is nothing to sneeze at. Locally, the Skyhawks passed a major milestone by sweeping Cactus. A first-round loss was a bummer, but the future is extremely bright. Roskelley is the only senior to play a large role. The next five best players on this squad were three freshmen and two juniors. The inside-outside tandem of Andrade and Lee, in particular, bears watching.