The 2020-21 Arizona high school basketball season is finally underway. Here are some players and teams to watch in 5A girls basketball.
Players to watch
G MiLinda Arguellez, sr., Flowing Wells
The second-team all-conference selection signed with D-II Texas A&M International last month. She averaged 18.4 points per game last season and enters her senior year with 1,257 career points.
G Hannah Beard, so., Verrado
The first-team all-region honoree led the Vipers to a 20-win season as a pass-first freshman point guard, leading the team with 5.3 assists per game (second in 5A) to go with 7.5 points, 5.1 steals and 4.5 rebounds.
G Julie Diveney, sr., Sunrise Mountain
The Northwest Region defensive player of the year led the Mustangs to last season’s state championship game, averaging 11.8 points per game along with 2.4 rebounds, two steals and 1.9 assists.
G Kassidy Dixon, sr., Millennium
The only returning starter for new coach Kevin Thomas on the defending state champion, the second-team all-region selection and Grand Canyon signee averaged 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a junior while shooting 56 percent from the field and 45 percent from three-point range.
G Alani Encinas, jr., Buena
The second-team all-conference selection shot 32 percent from three-point range while averaging 11.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game as a sophomore.
G Autymn Franks, sr., Casteel
The cat-quick 5-2 guard excels at playing end-to-end defense, harassing ball-handlers all 94 feet. In 17 games last season, she averaged 9.2 points, 4.4 assists and 3.9 steals.
G Daeja Johnson, sr., Casteel
The second-team all-conference pick led the Colts to the quarterfinals last winter, averaging 15.7 points (shooting 36 percent from three-point range) along with 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game.
F Ella Schott, sr., Cactus Shadows
The second-team all-region selection helped the Falcons win 27 games and reach the state semifinals last season, averaging 8.2 points (49 percent from the field), 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
F Haylee Weathersby, sr., Apollo
The Black Hills State signee had 22 double-doubles last season and has eclipsed 1,000 points (1,368) and rebounds (1,010) for her career. As a junior, she averaged 17.7 points, 15 rebounds (third in the state), 3.3 steals and two blocks per game. “Haylee is a mobile post player with tremendous size that has the ability to play inside and out,” said Black Hills State coach Mark Nore.
Teams to watch
The Falcons reached 20 wins for the ninth consecutive season but have only two title-game appearances to show for their sustained success. With Schott and a couple of sophomores — Sierra Labuwi (7.1 points per game last season) and Kaitlyn Elsholz (6.2 points, 5.2 rebounds) — among five key rotation players back, they will be in the hunt yet again.
The Colts reached the semifinals two years ago and have the talent to get back there this season, led by Johnson and Franks and joined by senior guard Camilla Norton (5.1 points) and sophomore guard Stella Burt.
The Tigers played for the title in 2019 and reached the semifinals last season. They graduated their top three scorers but return three juniors who received significant playing time, led by forward Nicole Evenson (6.9 points, five rebounds, 3.3 steals) and guard Jaleah Hendrix (five points, 1.9 assists).
The two-time defending state champion Tigers lost 5A offensive player of the year Trayanna Crisp (14.8 points, 3.6 steals, three assists, 4.2 rebounds, 49 percent from the field, 31 percent from three-point range) and forward Amoret Maxell to PHH Prep among four departed starters, but a program doesn’t reach four finals in a six-year span without having the ability to reload. Dixon and promising sophomore Mia Amundsen (2.8 points) are among their top returners.
The Mustangs graduated only two starters from last season’s team that reached the final for the first time in school history. Diveney leads a returning group that includes sophomore Mackenzie Dunham (6.2 points, 8.8 rebounds), who earned second-team all-region honors as a freshman, and junior Kelci Connolly (6.5 points, 2.2 steals).
The Vipers return their top six scorers from last season’s 20-win squad, led by second-team all-region junior guards Janae Byrd (8.4 points, 6.3 steals, 4.3 rebounds) and Amaya Felix (7.5 points, 2.9 steals), senior post Maya Rubio (6.9 points, 10.2 rebounds), and sophomores Beard and Isabella Barrett (7.9 points, 8.2 rebounds).