Monsoon girls basketball ready for bright future

Valley Vista sophomore guard Zaria Watkins dribbles among Phoenix Xavier Prep defenders during a 6A girls basketball semifinal Feb. 21 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. [Elliott Glick/For West Valley Preps]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

It will be hard for Valley Vista girls basketball to wait for its next game.

The Monsoon girls lost 65-51 in the state 6A semifinals to Phoenix Xavier Prep on Feb. 21, ending the program’s shot at a state title three-peat. But this particular group of players is just getting started.

One senior, Kena Kilpatrick, will not be back. But 56 of the team’s 64 points per game and 26 of their 32 rebounds will return.

“We just talked about it. 365 days starts right now. They know what they need to do. I told them there’s nothing to really hang your head about. You got beat because of execution and experience,” Valley Vista girls coach Rachel Matakas said after the semifinal.

Most of that experience came in the form of Xavier senior guard Lelani McIntosh. She poured in 20 of her game-high 29 points after halftime as the Gators erased a 27-23 deficit.

“I knew that she would probably struggle in the first half because they would throw a lot at her, like a box and one and different defenses. But I knew she was going to stay poised and confident because she’s that type of leader. I had know doubt she was going to finish strong tonight. It was just a matter of when (she took over),” Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom said.

Meanwhile, foul trouble saddled the Monsoon girls’ young stars, sophomore forward Marisa Davis and freshman guard Jennah Isai.

Davis — a 16-point-per-game scorer — picked up three fouls in the first quarter and played 11 minutes, finishing with five points and two rebounds.

Isai, the team’s leading scorer, took over with 16 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. But even she has some things to learn after committing 11 turnovers and fouling out with 5:16 remaining and her team only trailing by six.

“Sometimes they would look like they were together. Sometimes they wouldn’t. When that adversity hit us, they didn’t meld together. They kind of fractured a little bit,” Matakas said. “But do you want to hear something crazy? We had 32 turnovers. They scored 50 in the paint. And we lost by (14). And we had to foul. That’s how ridiculously good we are.”

Plus the Monsoon girls are more than just a star duo. Freshhman Saniyah Neverson had 13 points and nine rebounds against the Gators. Sophomore guards Alanis Delgado and Zaria Watkins will complement Isai.

Also Avondale Westview forward Madison Magee transferred to Valley Vista in January after averaging 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds during the first half of the season. She sat out but will be a big part of the mix next year.

A 6A title in 2019-20 will not be a cakewalk. Xavier is senior dominated but the recently crowned 6A champion Chandler Hamilton, is led by junior guard Victoria Davis and sophomore forward Samara Curry.

In sophomore Ally Steadman and freshman Kennedy Basham, semifinalist Phoenix Pinnacle has a duo to rival Davis and Isai. And Gilbert Perry, the team Valley Vista outlasted in the quarterfinals, also has only one senior.

Looking ahead, Matakas likes what she has.

“We can fix it. All that’s correctable. I have great kids. I don’t have kids where I think, ‘Thank God they graduated.’ I don’t have any of that,” Matakas said. “I told them to remember this game. I told them, ‘This is what should motivate you. I want to see you here in 365 days.’ They’ve got to put the work in the weight room and in practice.”

Monsoon girls
The Valley Vista girls basketball team celebrates its 6A quarterfinal win against Perry at Perry High School in Gilbert Feb. 15. [Elliott Glick/Special to West Valley Preps]

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