2023-24 Boys Basketball

NOTEBOOK: Salpointe boys coaching union special, essential for Lancers in state playoffs

Salpointe head coach Eric Castillo sat for most of the Lancers’ 4A play-in game Friday night against visiting CDO while lead assistant Chase Babb walked the sideline and shouted out plays and encouragement to the Lancers.

That follows the orders of Castillo’s doctors after Castillo suffered a stroke in late October.

“They just wanted my stress level to be a little down and try to come back to things slowly,” Castillo said after Salpointe’s 43-28 win over the Dorados.

The Lancers (18-9) are the No. 10 seed in the 4A state tournament. They play at No. 7 Phoenix Thunderbird (21-6) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in a first round game.

Babb has coached with Castillo for more than a decade.

He played for Castillo when the veteran coach led the Salpointe freshman program.

“He knows the program inside-out,” Castillo said. “I trust him with the wheel 100 percent.”

Babb teaches physical education and is the athletic director at St. Joseph’s Catholic School (K-8).

“That’s my 8 to 5 and then I come here to coach basketball for fun,” Babb said.

Salpointe’s low-scoring affair with CDO on Friday night was a direct result for how demanding Castillo and Babb are of their players on defense.

“Almost every practice we start off doing defensive slides down the full court and back six times maybe,” said senior guard Logan Martinez, who scored all of his nine points in the fourth quarter to help keep CDO down.

Babb interjected with a laugh about that arduous drill: “With bricks and rubber bands … Coach (Castillo) likes to take it back a little bit (to the old-days method).”

“We make it tough just so the guys can get their feet moving and have their hands in the right position so we’re not getting called for fouls down low,” Castillo said.

Salpointe held CDO to only a 3-point shot made by talented guard Will Dixion in the fourth quarter.

The Dorados took an early 7-2 lead and Salpointe mostly kept the Dorados in check from there.

Different Salpointe players stepped at various times while point guard Joey Castillo provided consistent leadership. Bobby Smith had six of his eight points in the first half. M.J. Gedebou scored six of his eight points in the third quarter. Martinez had all of his nine points in the last quarter.

“In the fourth, Joey Castillo came out and said, ‘Give it your all right now,'” said Martinez, who has been hampered recently with ankle soreness. “Every huddle on the whiteboard it says, ‘Defense,’ four times, super big. Our coaches like to focus on defense first and then we get our offense going.”


The 16-team 4A girls state basketball bracket is comprised of approximately 44 percent Southern Arizona schools, a group of seven led by No. 1 seed Salpointe (23-4).

Here is Thursday’s schedule for the 4A girls playoffs (games at 7 p.m.):

No. 16 Peoria (18-9) at No. 1 Salpointe (23-4)
No. 9 Mesa Eastmark (24-4) at No. 8 Mica Mountain (18-10)
No. 12 Pueblo (16-11) at No. 5 Goodyear Estrella Foothills (26-4)
No. 13 Surprise Paradise Honors (20-5) at No. 4 Sahuaro (22-9)
No. 11 Flowing Wells (20-9) at No. 6 Glendale Deer Valley (18-8)
No. 10 Scottsdale Saguaro (15-10) at No. 7 Rio Rico (20-6)
No. 15 Sahuarita (17-11) at No. 2 Gilbert Mesquite (23-4)

None of the Southern Arizona teams will play each other in the first round and four of the programs will be at home.

Salpointe, Sahuaro, Pueblo and Flowing Wells have traditionally been strong 4A programs. Mica Mountain, Rio Rico and Sahuarita are part of the group this season, which bodes well overall for this area.


Sabino’s boys basketball team was the lowest-rated team at No. 24 in the 3A field but the Sabercats won their first two games to advance to the quarterfinal round Tuesday.

Sabino (13-14) won at No. 8 Coolidge 67-57 on Wednesday before going on the road again and winning against No. 8 Chinle 67-55 on Saturday night.

The Sabercats, winners of nine of their last 11 games, will play at No. 1 Chandler Valley Christian (26-2) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Caden Watkins, a junior guard/forward, leads Sabino averaging 15.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

Cameron Hackworth, a senior who led Sabino to its first state title in football in 25 years as the starting quarterback during the fall, is one of the Sabercats’ catalysts on the hoops team. He is averaging 10.5 points and 3 assists per game.


Following No. 1 Sunnyside’s upset 2-1 loss to No. 8 Mesa on Saturday in the 6A quarterfinals, the highest remaining local seeds in the boys and girls state soccer brackets are No. 2 Mica Mountain in the 4A boys competition and No. 2 Walden Grove in the 4A girls playoffs.

Mica Mountain (16-5) won in thrilling fashion Saturday beating No. 7 Phoenix Greenway on penalty kicks 4-2 after the game was tied at 1 following overtime.

Julian Ordaz, Wyatt Pakkala, JJ Boccardo converted their penalty kicks before Cameron Turner made the last one to give the Thunderbolts the win.

Mica Mountain next hosts No. 11 Phoenix Goldwater (12-6) on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the semifinals. No. 4 Salpointe (17-5) is in the other semifinal on Tuesday at 3 p.m. at No. 1 Flagstaff (13-0-1).

Walden Grove girls (18-0-1) are coming off a 5-1 win over No. 7 Phoenix Arcadia on Saturday. The Red Wolves will host No. 11 Scottsdale Saguaro (12-3-3) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in a semifinal match.

No. 4 Salpointe (11-2-2) will play at No. 1 Flagstaff (15-1) on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in the other semifinal.


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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