For the seventh year, West Valley Preps has announced honors for the best boys basketball players it covers in the West Valley. This time around, we saw so many quality players that a third team was necessary. Here is the all-West Valley Preps boys basketball team:
F — Tanner Mayer, (Senior), Sunrise Mountain
F — DaRon Holmes (Junior), Millennium
G — Dominic Gonzalez (Senior), Ironwood
G — Isaac Monroe, (Senior), Peoria
G — Trent Hudgens (Senior), Ironwood
F — Dariyan Matthews, (Junior), Dysart
F — Kevin Kogbara, (Junior), Peoria
F — Jerry Iliya (Senior), Paradise Honors
G — Justus Jackson, (Junior), Millennium
G — Sunday John, (Senior), Willow Canyon
F — Elijah Thomas (Junior), Valley Vista
F — Colin Carey (Junior), Sunrise Mountain
G — Jalen Scott (Junior), Paradise Honors
G — Jackson Leyba (Junior), Deer Valley
G — DeAndre Petty (Senior), Peoria
Underclassmen to watch
Noah Amenhauser, F, (Sophomore); Andrew Camacho, G, (Freshman), Peoria; Rafe Canale, G, (Sophomore), Sunrise Mountain; Jamaal Dean, G, (Freshman), Ironwood; Aadem Isai, G, (Freshman), Valley Vista; Semajay James, G/F, (Sophomore), Deer Valley; Trenten Lavender, G, (Sophomore), Centennial; Jake Lifgren, G, (Sophomore), Centennial; Damian Lua, F, (Sophomore), Dysart; Jo Jo Montgomery, F, (Sophomore); Seve Moreno, G, (Sophomore), Estrella Foothills; Logan Moser, G, (Sophomore), Northwest Christian; Trevor Owens, G, (Sophomore), Liberty; Jayson Petty, F, (Sophomore), Centennial; Nathaniel Pickens, G, (Sophomore), Paradise Honors; Christopher Ruiz, G, (Freshman), Kellis; Pike Tancil, G, (Sophomore), Willow Canyon; Clayton Werner, G, (Freshman), Valley Vista; Nasiah Wilson, G, (Sophomore), Willow Canyon.
Player of the year
DaRon Holmes – The virtually unanimous state player of the year, Holmes continued to add to his game as his national profile grew. By this point it is easier to name which college basketball powerhouses have not offered the 6-9 junior (Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Marquette, Oklahoma, UCLA and Virginia are among the host of colleges interested). Holes’ averages (23.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.8 blocks, 3.1 assists) only paint a partial picture of the big man’s skill set or importance to Millennium. He did not overdo it, making 64 percent of his field goals. And he is not just taking an entry feed, turning and dunking on outmatched “normal” high school players. He also attempted 55 threes and showed an improved handle on the perimeter, driving to the hoop more and setting up three-point shooters. Holmes has the game of a college wing player as a high school junior. He also handled an increasing spotlight with humility and lifted his teammates onto the big stage. Millennium played in two major national tournaments this year and Holmes, along with Justus Jackson, was the major reason why. Add nationally spotlighted games against Sierra Canyon and the traveling road show surrounding LeBron James’ son as well as a Texas powerhouse and it is clear. Holmes is now the straw that stirs the drink in Arizona basketball.
Dominic Gonzalez – It is hard to distinguish Eagles players and their importance in the collective whole. But coach Jordan Augustine is quick to trace this state title-winning team’s roots to Gonzalez. The coach called Gonzalez the “connector” between Ironwood’s returner and three key transfers. In a shorter season, Hudgens actually averaged slightly more points, assists and steals and was the most explosive Eagle. But Gonzalez was the steadiest and served as the director of the whole show. He also, at 6-3, led Ironwood in rebounding with six per game. Often times, like against Sunnyslope, he guarded bigger post players. This role was crucial since the only way to beat Ironwood this season was by controlling the offensive boards and the paint. Gonzalez kept the group together and focused. He embodied the selfless ethos of the program. Gonzalez ends his Ironwood career as the school’s all-time leader in points, assists, three-pointers and wins. And he will go down in Eagles history as the unquestioned leader and talisman of its first state title team.
Isaac Monroe – Entering the season, the book on Monroe was that he was a dead-eye shooter and prolific pilferer of the ball. Without Kaleb Brown, his backcourt mate and point guard last season. It seemed Monroe would shoot more and score more with this young team around. Instead, Monroe became Brown’s replacement and his scoring average remained almost identical, inching down from 17.7 to 17.6 points this season. He added a rebound and an assist per game to his averages this year. And in getting his teammates more involved, Monroe led the Panthers to their first state title game in eight years.
Coach of the year
Jordan Augustine, Ironwood – The most talented of Augustine’s first five teams at Ironwood brought home the school’s first basketball state title. However, it was not a “roll out the balls and let them play scenario by any stretch.” Five of the six Northwest Region teams reached the final 16-team playoff bracket in 5A. League rival Sunnyslope was the Eagles’ semifinal opponent. Sunrise Mountain was the last team to beat the Eagles, on Dec. 19. But that was two games before transfers Trent Hudgens, Jaden Glass and David Teibo were eligible. After those three were added to the dominant guard trio of Gonzalez, Bailon Black and J.J. White, Ironwood went 17-0 and lifted the gold ball. While the trio, Hudgens in particular, provided a major injection of talent, Augustine’s strategic acumen and his foundational work setting the program’s culture and expectations allowed the newcomers to build in almost seamlessly. Three players who could have run the show as a traditional point guard instead played off each other and made the offense an explosive powder keg. Ironwood set an all-time 5A record for made three pointers, yet attacked the basket with aplomb. All that said, Augustine’s defensive strategies against Holmes and a loaded Millennium team made the difference in the final. Knowing the Tigers had matchup advantages in the half court — Millennium shot 62 percent in the final — Ironwood’s game plan was to try to force turnovers and get steals with its pressure. It worked, Ironwood had 15 steals and Millennium made 21 turnovers. Against Holmes, Augustine’s strategy of sending extra man during the entry pass threw the Tigers off just enough that Holmes did not dominate them this year (17 points) and Millennium did not get a bunch of easy baskets off double teams.
Patrick Battillo, Peoria – In some respects, what Battillo did this season was more impressive than Augustine’s accomplishment. Patrick Battillo was the Panthers’ JV coach through Dec. 16. Peoria had a 6-2 record and a competitive game at Dysart coming up the next day when coach Will Roberts went on personal leave. It easily could have fallen apart. The Panthers reached the finals of the Greenway tournament, and lost to a full-strength Ironwood team (like everyone else did). Peoria had a long, soul-searching post-game meeting. Then the Panthers exhaled for the rest of winter break. Then they won their next 15 games and pushed 4A preseason favorite Tucson Salpointe Catholic to overtime in the final. During the course of the season, Peoria adopted a five-out spread offense to pair with its always intense full-court pressure D. Battillo maximized the versatility of Kogbara — who could handle like a fifth guard or post when needed — and Petty, who allowed a four-guard look because he rebounded like a center. More than anything, Battillo got this team to pass more as the season wore on and the threes fell like rain.
Steve Silvernail, Glendale Prep – Maybe the toughest decision of all, perhaps other than the final two spots on the third team. In his third year at Millennium, Ty Amundsen coached the Tigers to their second straight state final. Ben Isai led Valley Vista to unprecedented heights. Liberty’s Mark Wood and Shadow Ridge’s Robert Bohon lost NCAA Division I-level players that they thought were coming back for this season and cobbled together teams that made the 6A play-in round. Along with Isai, Centennial’s Randy Lavender and Deer Valley’s Jed Dunn led very young teams a step beyond what might have been expected — and previewed big 2020-21 seasons for all three teams. But Silvernail earned the nod for taking a 2A team with one near-standout player in senior Matthew Hawkins to an 18-8 record, a region championship and a No. 4 seed in the 2A tournament. The Valley coaching veteran of three decades created a system that maximized this group’s strengths — long-range shooting, passing and intelligence — and hid some of their shortcomings in terms of pure athletic ability. This was the best season of boys basketball yet in the West Valley and arguably no coach got more out of his roster than Silvernail.