Pima girls, boys reach finals; Highland Prep, Phoenix Country Day await

February 24, 2023 by Jose Garcia, AZPreps365

Pima's girls basketball team is a win away from its first three-peat. Photo by Jose Garcia/azpreps365

A big day awaits Pima High School.

But Phoenix Country Day and Highland Prep wouldn’t mind spoiling Pima’s championship plans.

Both of Pima’s winter season basketball teams reached Saturday’s 2A championship games at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. A third Pima team also will be in attendance.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association annually honors teams celebrating their 50th championship anniversary during halftime of its state championship games. Pima’s 1973 boys team is planning to be in the house Saturday.

Semifinalist San Carlos (31-3) made sure Pima’s girls earned their title berth. Trailing 20-7, San Carlos turned to its pressure defense, strong fan support and baskets to make it a game.

The game was knotted at 40-apiece with 4:11 left, but Pima’s defense also stepped up, especially from Ashlynn Chlarson. The team’s leading scorer had a couple of key steals and baskets in the final minutes to help seal the victory for 27-2 Pima.

The 6-2 Chlarson, her team’s leading scorer, unofficially tallied 21 points and 14 boards.

Ashlynn Chlarson is interviewed after helping Pima reach the 2A final. Photo by Jose Garcia/azpreps365.com“We were struggling, but we started to pull through and got our intensity up,” she said. “We know it (three-peating) is hard, but we know we can do it.”

As for the Pima 2023 boys, the veteran squad defeated Arizona Lutheran Academy 53-41, clinching their program’s first state title appearance since 2005.

It’ll be Pima’s 19th appearance (third most in state history) in the big game. Grant Ashby, one of the senior leaders, scored 20 points for Pima, and teammates Seth Russell and Garrett Curtis added 14 and 13 points, respectively.

Pima's fans congratulate their boys after clinching their program's first title berth in 18 years. Photo by Jose Garcia/azpreps365

Pima (25-3) only led 15-14 in the second quarter, but that’s when it started to take control. Eleven of Pima’s 14 players helped their school win a football title in the fall.

Awaiting the Pimas are two very talented teams, the 28-2 Phoenix Country Day girls and Highland Prep boys.

Phoenix Country Day clinched its first title appearance in 23 years after defeating Sedona Red Rock 60-43 at VMC. PCD hit five threes in the second quarter and 11 in the game to beat Sedona Red Rock for the second time this season. The game was tied 10-10 after the first quarter before PCD surged ahead.

Nara Kaibara (14 points), Olivia Owens (12 points) and Nara’s sister, Aila (11 points), were PCD’s leading scorers.PCD defeated a Sedona Red Rock program that reached the 2A finals the last two years and was resuscitated by head coach Kirk Westervelt.

Phoenix Country Day celebrates after its state semfinal victory Friday at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Photo by Jose Garcia/azpreps365

“It was just a matter of time before our conditioning became a factor,” PCD coach Sean Newland said. “You saw that there in the fourth quarter when we got out there and ran, got some easy buckets and started pressing them. It’s what has carried us.”

The third time was the charm for the Highland Prep boys.

Friday’s semifinal victory for the program with one of the coolest mascots in the state, the Honey Badgers, was sweet, because it finally defeated Phoenix Christian this season. Their first two meetings between Central Region foes were close, but not so Friday as Highland Prep won 60-45.

Multiple dunks punctuated some of the action. Highland Prep junior wing Presley Ibeh led all scorers with 25 points.

Highland Prep (23-6), a charter school in Surprise, is only in its second year as an AIA program.