The Arizona Republic

Millennium among Open Division semi hopefuls

- Theo Mackie

Monday night’s quarterfin­al between Seton Catholic and Millennium epitomized what makes the new Open Division format so fun.

Respective­ly, they were the best teams in 4A and 5A all season. The competitio­n in their conference likely wouldn’t have posed too much of a challenge. Instead, they got to play one of the games of the season in front of a sellout crowd in a battle that came down to the last shot. It was intense, it was entertaini­ng and it meant something. It’s a bummer for Seton Catholic that this season will end without hardware, but that environmen­t was something that the 4A playoffs might not have been able to offer.

Millennium, meanwhile, gets to continue its dream. The Tigers have won four straight 5A titles. But winning the Open Division in its first year of competitio­n would be something new.

Let’s break down their chances, and more, in the Arizona Interschol­astic Associatio­n’s Open Division semifinal preview:

No. 1 Desert Vista vs. No. 4 Xavier Prep. Friday, 7 p.m., Mountain Pointe High School.

Jerzy Robinson isn’t just one of the most impressive girls’ basketball players to come through Arizona in recent memory, she’s one of the most impressive athletes period. She’s walked into the Open Division as a freshman and immediatel­y dropped 26, 25 and 27 points. Not many players hold eight high-major college offers before their first game of high school. She’s showing why she was the exception.

To be clear, Desert Vista gets contributi­ons from far more than one place. Shay Ijiwoye dropped 20 in Friday’s quarterfin­al win over Salpointe Catholic and the rest of their six-player rotation is dangerous as well. That’s why they’re so difficult to beat.

Xavier Prep learned that lesson back

in January, when they lost, 65-50, to Desert Vista in a game where Robinson’s 23 points were supported by double figure scoring from three teammates.

The Gators have the talent to make this go-around different. Like Desert Vista, they can beat you with multiple options. That’s what they did on Friday, when freshman forward Noelle Guiamatsia scored 25 in a win over McClintock. But Xavier Prep will have to be at its sharpest in all facets of the game to take down Desert Vista, which was the top-ranked team in 6A this season before moving up to the Open. That’s a tall task.

Prediction: Desert

Prep 57

No. 2 Perry vs. No. 6 Millennium. Friday, 7 p.m., Gilbert High School.

Millennium’s win Monday was one of the gutsiest efforts you’ll ever see in a sporting event — high school or otherwise.

Over the weekend, the Millennium community mourned the death of Gabryan Aguirre, a student at the school who was friends with many girls’ basketball

Vista 68, Xavier players, in a car crash Friday morning.

Thanks to the flexibilit­y of the AIA and Seton Catholic, the game was pushed from Friday to Monday.

Just playing would have been impressive enough. But the Tigers overcame a 16-2 deficit to pull off a truly incredible win.

In doing so, they displayed the offensive versatilit­y that makes them so dangerous. Among the four teams in the semis, they’re the most likely team to equal scoring contributi­ons from each starter.

Perry is the opposite. Why? Because the Pumas have Khamil Pierre, who can take over a game like no one in the state, with the possible exception of Robinson. In Friday’s quarterfin­al, No. 7 seed Pinnacle put up a surprising­ly good effort. The Pioneers, though, had no response for Pierre, who scored 38 on 15of-19 shooting to lead Perry to a 75-65 win.

It was a quintessen­tial Pierre performanc­e and it’s why the Pumas are the most likely team to upset Desert Vista.

Prediction: Perry 72, Millennium 66

 ?? ALEX GOULD/THE REPUBLIC ?? Millennium point guard Mia Amundsen (13) drives the ball against Seton Catholic at Seton Catholic High School on Feb. 20.
ALEX GOULD/THE REPUBLIC Millennium point guard Mia Amundsen (13) drives the ball against Seton Catholic at Seton Catholic High School on Feb. 20.

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