The 2023 all West Valley Preps girls basketball team
West Valley Preps
For the ninth 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 …
I am anchor
WEST VALLEY PREPS
The 2023 all West Valley Preps girls basketball team
(Courtesy Frank Eager/For West Valley Preps)
Sunrise Mountain senior forward MacKenzie Dunham puts up a short jumper in the second half of the 5A girls basketball final against the defense of Canyon View junior forward Mia Burgess (#15) and freshman guard Aaliyah Rogers (#2). Dunham is the runner up for West Valley Preps girls basketball player of the year.
(Courtesy Matt Bushnell/For West Valley Preps)
Mountain Ridge senior guard Miyah Verse shoots a pull up jumper Dec. 17 in a game at O'Connor High School. She is a first team all West Valley Preps player.
(Courtesy ChapterNEXT/For West Valley Preps)
Deer Valley senior center Michaela Lee looks for a cutter to pass to from the high post during the Skyhawks' Jan. 19 win at Goldwater. Lee is a second team All West Valley Preps player.
(Courtesy Elliott Glick/For West Valley Preps)
Sunrise Mountain senior point guard Reena Bhakta (#14) drives to the basket against Valley Vista during a Feb. 7 Open Division first round game in Peoria. Bhakta is a third team all West Valley Preps player
PF — Michaela Lee (Senior), Deer Valley
C — Emma Dasovich (Junior), Valley Vista
PG — Shainelle Mallory (Freshman), Kellis
SG — Mackenzie Nielsen (Senior), Sunrise Mountain
SG — Madison Pond (Junior), Estrella Foothills
W — Mariah Preston (Senior), Willow Canyom
PF — Hannah Young (Senior), Valley Vista
PG — Reena Bhakta (Senior), Sunrise Mountain
PG — Izzy Majarucon (Junior), Deer Valley
SG — Akasha Prpich (Junior), Centennial
Elli Guiney, Millennium - After playing her first two seasons as a wing who could create for herself and other while also playing in the post, Guiney played as the squad's full time point guard. She led Millennium in points, rebounds, assists and blocks. And she led them to the first Open Division final, scoring 20 of Millennium's 28 first half points in the semifinal against Perry. She finished 4-6 from three point range and had 25 of the Tigers' 45 points in the win over Perry. Despite her high volume of usage and reliance on her offensive skills, Guiney also shot 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from three, while maintaining a 2.85 assists to turnovers ratio. No player in the West Valley was asked to do as much and delivered time and again.
Runner-up: MacKenzie Dunham, Sunrise Mountain - In her last year of competitive basketball, Dunham dominated to the degree that the Mustangs' nearest rivals had only one effective strategy to slow her down - try to get her in foul trouble. Or get lucky with an injury. The double double machine who also can handle the ball well enough to drive to the basket from the elbow led Sunrise Mountain in rebounds (13.7 per game), assists (3.2) and blocks (1.7) in the regular season while scoring 17.3 points a game. That was in the regular season. In the playoffs, Dunham poured in 22 points in the Open Division game against Valley Vista before a collision opened a gash on her head and caused her to miss the final two minutes of a 59-55 loss. Now in the 5A bracket Sunrise Mountain had two routine wins before a semifinal game at Laveen Betty Fairfax. Dunham picked up three fouls in the first quarter, sat the second. She was out a portion of the fourth, but made two key defensive plays in the final 10 seconds to secure a 54-53 win. Dunham had three fouls in the first 5:31 of the 5A final against Canyon View. But she played most of the second half and grabbed 20 rebounds and scored 13 points in 21 minutes, as the Mustangs won their first state title.
Second runner-up: Olivia Arvallo, Valley Vista - Arvallo doesn't quite put up the numbers of Guiney or Dunham, or even fellow first teamer Miyah Verse. Though 12.5 points and 5 assists a game are very good. But she now has one number over every other girl in Arizona history - four 6A state titles in four years. And the Monsoon simply would not have won the fourth without Arvallo. She's much more comfortable as a defensive and distributing point guard, but this year Arvallo took on more of an offensive role. That was evident during the end of the 6A final against a dogged Dobson team. Arvallo had four points and an assist in the final three minutes of the game, including driving 70 feet for the layup that gave Valley Vista the 48-46 win.
Millennium coach Danny Soliman talks to his team during the Tigers' season-ending win over Canyon View Feb. 3. Soliman is the West Valley Preps coach of the year. (Courtesy Skylar Stephens/For West Valley Preps)
Coach of the year
Danny Soliman, Millennium - January ended and it was fair to wonder what would become of Soliman's first Millennium team as Hamilton visited Goodyear and beat the Tigers 56-52 to drop their overall record to 14-8. But the first-year coach and players changed their approach a bit and produced a memorable February through more adversity than most teams face in a course of a full season. Millennium blasted rival and eventual 5A runner up Canyon View to end the season and Boulder Creek to start the Open Division. But in that game Guiney suffered a concussion and the Tigers were in jeopardy of missing the Elite 8 of the first Open. Millennium played Soliman's former O'Connor team was coming in led by former Millennium assistant Charles Wilson. The Tigers knocked out the Eagles 58-52. That situation was trivial compared to what awaited eight days later. Gabryan Aguirre died the morning of Millennium's scheduled Open Division quarterfinal at Seton Catholic. Playing three days later for their friend, the Tigers won a tear-stained 44-42 victory. Three days later, they stunned #2 overall seed Perry to make the first Open final. The Desert Vista juggernaut was to much for ther or any other Arizona team, but to get there, the Tigers reached their full potential. None of that happens without Soliman's calm approach, genuine faith and connection with grieving players and ability to change his tactical approach as the season wore on.
Runner-up: Jen Tolle, Sunrise Mountain - It has been 11 years in the making. Tolle took over a program that wasn't at rock bottom but regularly posted double digit losses and single digit wins. She built slowly and the trust of North Peoria followed. By the time Sunrise Mountain moved up to 5A in 2018 this program was ready. After not reaching the playoffs previously, Tolle's Mustangs have not missed a 5A playoff and have always won at least won one game. In 2020 they went to the finals against Millennium and for Bhakta, Dunham and Nielsen, everything since had built toward returning as seniors. Junior point guard Ysabel Puente transferred to Dream City and the Mustangs had to adjust to not having a natural ball-handler and press breaker. A shocking loss to Centennial caused speculation if the Mustangs were even a 5A contender. Sunrise Mountain responded with a 26-point beatdown of a one-loss Kellis team and never lost to another 5A team. Tolle guided her team through tricky semifinal and final games where Dunham's foul trouble dramatically altered the nature of both games, keeping things close in the second quarter and early in the third. The result was a crowning moment also for the coach who built up a program where success wasn;t guaranteed.
Second runner-up: Brooklyn Hinkens, Valley Vista - Hinkens was not the Valley Vista head coach at the start of the season and she is not the Monsoon's coach as of this weekend. But in slightly less than two months in the role, Hinkens kept the program's traditions intact. When founding coach and Hall of Famer Rachel Matakas resigned citing health reasons in mid-January this young team was 7-7 and just starting to figure itself out. From then on the Monsoon's only two losses were to MaxPreps national top 20 ranked San Jose Archmishop Mitty and Desert Vista. That second loss dropped Valley Vista out of the first Open Division and back into 6A. The team dutifully won that title for the sixth time in seven years. Hinkens showed how she could put her own spin on a dynasty and where Valley Vista could go post-Matakas. But then she took the Liberty job Friday.