Tucson teams gain experience, exposure at Section 7 basketball tournament

GLENDALE — After nearly a week and a half of basketball action, things are finally winding down at the Section 7 basketball tournament in Glendale. Hundreds of teams, both boys and girls, took the court to compete against some of the top competition in the country in front of some of the top college coaches. For teams from Tucson, it was a chance to gain new experiences while garnering collegiate exposure.

While the teams aren’t anywhere near as polished as what they’ll be come the start of season, summer league games are a great chance to get a preview of what to expect from a team in the following year.

The tournament started off with the girls weekend, which had four teams from Tucson participate. Flowing Wells, Sahuaro, Salpointe and Sunnyside were some of the 96 teams in the tournament, which took place on Friday and Saturday. Salpointe was playing without Taliyah Henderson, who was named as one of the top players to watch in the tournament, as she is currently playing for Team Canada.

Following the girls weekend was the boys qualifier rounds, which featured a number of teams from Tucson. Amphitheater, Catalina Foothills, Cholla, Cienega, Mica Mountain, Palo Verde, Pueblo, Salpointe, Sunnyside and Walden Grove were some of the many teams duking it out to win their bracket and earn a spot in the boys weekend tournament.

Cholla, Cienega and Mica Mountain all ended up winning their respective brackets to advance to the boys weekend, joining Sahuaro and Tucson who had automatic invites. The boys weekend featured 184 teams in the tournament, which spanned from Friday through Sunday.

One of the benefits of playing in a really big tournament like Section 7 is getting the chance to get some different looks against teams you otherwise would normally not play.

“Just the competition, knowing that down in Tucson we don’t have this,” Jimmy Leon of Mica Mountain said. “Teams from California, Washington, Phoenix. Just the competition is getting us better… It isn’t the same, so that helps us.”

Another benefit is getting the opportunity to play in front of so many college coaches at once.

“There’s a lot of exposure,” Malaki Hiadzi of Tucson said. “Our last game, there were coaches from everywhere just sitting on the baseline.”

Cyree Jenkins of Cholla echoed the sentiment.

“Coaches get to see you,” Jenkins said. “There’s not a lot of times where a lot of coaches make it down to Arizona, especially if you’re a small team out of Tucson like Cholla.”

While the teams are there to work, there’s also a fun aspect to traveling to big events. Being on the road provides the perfect opportunity for team bonding during the downtime, and each team found their own way to carve out a little time for excitement.

“We’re gonna go swimming and do a little murder-mystery game,” Sidney Anderson of Salpointe Catholic said.

“We all get to stay in the same room, and we all have so much fun,” Anderson’s teammate Allison Even said. “It’s hard. [Coach Joe Luevano] has to make us go to bed.”

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