Southern Arizona State Boys Basketball Championships


Norm Patton with his wife Sandra. Patton coached Marana to three state championships (Andy Morales/

Norm Patton with his wife Sandra. Patton coached Marana to three state championships (Andy Morales/

Frank Mayo Brickey was Southern Arizona’s first coaching legend. He guided Duncan to three straight championships from 1938-1940 at a time when the “small” schools played the “big” schools much like in the movie, “Hoosiers.”

Even though Duncan only had 180 kids on campus, Brickey defeated Bud Doolen’s Tucson squad to win his third title in 1940. Brickey passed away in 1994 but long after he had moved on to coach football and basketball at NAU and Utah.

Thatcher’s Paul Nelson has nine titles to his name. No one from Southern Arizona even comes close. Doolen went on to win four at Tucson and Sahuaro’s Dick McConnell matched that number at Sahuaro.

McConnell’s first title with the Cougars came in 1970 and his came 31 years later in 2001.

Brian Peabody has coached three Southern Arizona teams to the final game, winning it all at Green Fields and Ironwood Ridge. His 1997 Salpointe team lost the championship in overtime.

Thatcher has been in the final game 21 times and won 10 of them. Amphitheater and Nogales are the last teams from Southern Arizona to win a state championship (2011).


Thatcher (10)
1978: 2A (Paul Nelson)
1981: 2A (Paul Nelson)
1982: 2A (Paul Nelson)
1983: 2A (Paul Nelson)
1984: 2A (Paul Nelson)
1985: 2A (Paul Nelson)
1986: 2A (Paul Nelson)
1990: 2A (Paul Nelson)
1991: 2A (Paul Nelson)
1995: 2A (Kenny Smith)

Tucson High (8)
1934: ALL (Rollin T. Gridley)
1942: ALL (Earl McCullar)
1943: ALL (Bud Doolen)
1945: ALL (Bud Doolen)
1948: ALL (Bud Doolen)
1949: 5A (Bud Doolen)
1962: 5A (Tony Morales)
1969: 5A (Tony Morales)

Safford (6)
1927: 5A (Ben Damberg)
1972: 4A (John Bonefas)
1974: 4A (John Bonefas)
1985: 3A (Joe Burnside)
1986: 3A (Joe Burnside)
1994: 3A (Joe Burnside)

Nogales (5)
1949: 3A (Harry O’Mealy)
1976: 4A (Ray Molera)
1982: 4A (Ray Molera)
1983: 4A (Ray Molera)
2011: 4A-I (Ricardo de la Riva)

Duncan (4)
1938: ALL (Frank Brickey)
1939: ALL (Frank Brickey)
1940: ALL (Frank Brickey)
2004: 1A (Andrew Larson)

Sahuaro (4)
1970: 5A (Dick McConnell)
1982: 5A (Dick McConnell)
2000: 5A (Dick McConnell)
2001: 5A (Dick McConnell)

Marana (3)
1969: 2A (Norm Patton)
1970: 2A (Norm Patton)
1972: 3A (Norm Patton)

Bisbee (2)
1930: ALL (Francis Alexander)
1994: 2A (Vince Creviston)

Buena (2)
1969: 4A (Don Harris)
1970: 4A (Don Harris)

Canyon del Oro (2)
1977: 4A (John Tissaw)
1978: 4A (John Tissaw)

Flowing Wells (2)
1963: 3A (Ed Nymeyer)
1968: 3A (Ed Nymeyer)

Green Fields (2)
1990: 1A (Bill Ludeke)
1991: 1A (Brian Peabody)

Pueblo (2)
1977: 5A (Roland LaVetter)
1978: 5A (Roland LaVetter)

Santa Rita (2)
1999: 4A (Jim Ferguson)
2010: 4A-II (Jim Ferguson)

St. David (2)
1998: 1A (John Bryant)
2002: 1A (John Bryant)

St. Gregory (2)
2008: 1A (Paul Baranowski)
2009: 1A (Paul Baranowski)

Ajo (1)
1987: 1A (Bo Whitelock)

Amphitheater (1)
2011: 4A-II (Ben Hurley)

Benson (1)
1971: 1A (Jack Wilson)

Catalina (1)
1963: 5A (Galen Klintner)

Cholla (1)
1992 : 4A (Paul Dull)

Desert Christian (1)
2001: 1A (Chris Walter)

Douglas (1)
1932: ALL (Milt Morse)

Ironwood Ridge (1)
2008: 5A-II (Brian Peabody)

Rincon (1)
1965: 5A (Dick King)

Rio Rico (1)
2004: 3A (John Flanning)

Sunnyside (1)
1993: 4A (Dwight Rees)

Valley Union (1)
1985: 1A (LW Jackson)

Willcox (1)
1979: 3A: (Greg Lasley)

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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here, on and on the pages of the Vail Voice and the Tanque Verde Voice. Contact Andy Morales at


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