NOTEBOOK: Tucson High boys hoops true definition of team

Tucson High is 23-1 heading into its Open Division playoff game at home against Queen Creek Casteel on Wednesday (Tucson High photo)

The Tucson High School boys basketball is one of the most balanced talented teams ever fielded in Southern Arizona.

The Badgers do not have a player averaging in double-figure scoring and they are 23-1 overall with a 6A South title after going 6-0 in the region.

They head into their Open Division game Wednesday at 7 p.m. as the No. 14 seed hosting No. 19 Queen Creek Casteel (21-5).

Tucson coach Eric Langford, a Badger great who went on to excel at Grand Canyon, has 10 players averaging from 5.7 points to 9.4 points a game.

Here are those players:

Xavier Grajeda-Cruz, Jr., guard, 9.4 points a game
Patrick Flores, Soph., guard, 8.1
Adam Armadillo, Jr., guard, 8.0
Quintin Ragland, Jr., guard/forward, 7.3
Malaki Cunningham-Hiadzi, Soph., forward, 7.1
Adam Bernal, Sr., guard, 7.0
Julio Marquez, Jr., guard, 6.3
CJ Porter, Jr., guard, 6.2
Brevin Koch, Sr., forward, 6.1
Tavian Okougbo, Soph., guard, 5.7

Nine of them have at least 131 points. Grajeda-Cruz leads with 225.

More incredible balance: Six players have at least 59 rebounds, led by Cunningham-Hiadzi’s 107 (4.7 a game), and five have at least 30 assists, topped by Okougbo’s 51 (2.2 a game).

Tucson’s lone loss this season is to Salpointe, a game that went into overtime Dec. 4 with the Lancers winning 50-49.

Sunnyside a No. 12 seed in Open Division depite being 24-3

Much like the Tucson boys were slighted with a No. 14 seed in the Open Division despite a 23-1 record, Sunnyside’s girls team is rated low at No. 12 although it is 24-3.

The Blue Devils play a first round game against No. 21 Peoria Sunrise Mountain (22-5) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Desert View (Sunnyside’s gym is undergoing renovations). Justin Delgado’s team also went 6-0 in the 6A South.

Sunnyside senior forward Nayeli Nidez-Acuña is one of the top players in the state averaging 17.2 points and 12.4 rebounds a game. She also leads her team with 3.4 steals per game.

Keep an eye on freshman guard Ylena Gross, who is averaging 10.8 points and has made 48 shots from 3-point range in 27 games.

No. 3 Salpointe highest rated Open Division team from Southern Arizona

Salpointe is 22-3 and seeded No. 3 in the Open Division girls bracket.

The Lancers finished 8-0 in the 4A Kino and have not lost to a Southern Arizona team this season.

Salpointe, coached by Joseph Luevano, has won 53 consecutive games against Southern Arizona schools. The last local team to beat the Lancers was Sahuaro in the 2020-21 season, a 65-55 loss at Dick McConnell Gym (the Cougars’ home gym).

Their losses this season are against Gilbert (22-4), Henderson (Nev.) Liberty (16-10) and Corona (Calif.) Santiago (19-11).

Gilbert is the No. 9 seed.

Chandler Hamilton (No. 1 with 20-5 record) and Phoenix Xavier Prep (No. 2 at 21-4) are the only teams rated higher in the state than Salpointe.

Taliyah Henderson missed the first 13 games with a knee injury and has averaged 14.8 points and 7. 5 rebounds upon her return.

Former Ironwood Ridge standout Sidney Anderson has played in the last 11 games after gaining eligibility following her transfer entering the school year. She is averaging 12 points while shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc.

Jordan Watts, oldest daughter of former Sunnyside great Jermaine Watts, is the unsung hero with her 40 percent shooting from 3-point range. She is averaging 10.1 points and 2.2 assists a game.

Salpointe’s coaches believe Allison Even is one of the best players in Southern Arizona averaging 11.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists a game.


— Sahuaro and Mica Mountain are the only local schools with their boys and girls teams in the Open Division.

— The Cougar boys, coached by Jim Henry, are the No. 17 seed at 21-3 headed to No. 16 Glendale Deer Valley (22-3) Wednesday for the game at 7 p.m. Sahuaro won the 4A Kino title with a 7-1 record.

— The Cougar girls, coached by Steve Botkin, are the No. 15 seed at 21-8 who will host No. 18 Goodyear Estrella Foothills (26-3) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Sahuaro finished second in the 4A Kino with a 5-3 record.

— Mica Mountain boys, coached by Gary Lee, are the No. 29 seed at 23-3 going to No. 4 Chandler Basha (19-6) Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Thunderbolts went unbeaten (10-0) in the 4A Gila.

— Mica Mountain girls, coached by Alex Jackson, are the No. 32 seed at 18-9 playing at No. 1 Chandler Hamilton (20-5) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The Thunderbolts won the 4A Gila title with a 9-1 record.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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