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Phoenix Sunnyslope (AZ) 75 Maricopa (AZ) 49

01/18/2017, 9:30am CST
By Ed Baur

Phoenix Sunnyslope   75    Maricopa (AZ)   49

The 14-2 Vikings appear to be shaping up into a team of underclassmen that in six weeks should battle for another Arizona State title in 5A.  Once again, 6’5” Chris Orozco (2018) proved he’s one of the best interior players in the state as he collected 13 points in the opening quarter (28-11) over 10th ranked Maricopa (12-4). 

I’ve seen Orozco a lot since his freshmen year and a few things stand out: he always plays hard; he’s very active in positioning himself to give his teammates easy interior passes; he always has his hands up ready to receive a pass inside and even away from the basket; he doesn’t give up on the play which leads to a lot of offensive rebounds or simply keeping the ball alive on the glass, and he can keep big defenders honest by making the 15-16 foot shot.  And, he’s one strong kid!  On the night, he led all scorers with 29 points.

But Sunnyslope is certainly more than just Orozco with at least eight other players who can all shoot and play defense.  It’s always great to see a team that plays together no matter who’s on the floor and Sunnyslope is certainly one of those teams.  Can they beat top-ranked Glendale Apollo with its outstanding D1 guards and athletic interior players?  Not sure on that one; Apollo is impressive (ranked third among all size schools in Arizona while Sunnyslope is seventh.)

I primarily attended this game to see a Maricopa player who his coach recently boasted to an Arizona Republic reporter was the best player he’s seen in the state over the past 10 years.  This is high praise for sure from a respected and knowledgeable coach, but unfortunately an evaluation that (on this night at least) didn’t prove any where close to being true.  5’7” Josh Johnson (2018) had his moments in the opening quarter (10 points) but his 32 minutes of work was nothing special. 

Johnson appears to be a good shooter, when he’s wide open, but his floor production wasn’t impressive and he jacked-up an awful lot of shots in producing 20 points.  He’s pretty small for such high praise especially when you consider the incredible young guard talent at a top-ranked D4 Phoenix Shadow Mountain alone!

On this night Johnson wasn’t even the most impressive player on his team.  6’6” Darrell Handy-Johnson (2017) is Maricopa’s only ‘big’ and he battled in the paint throughout the game even with his team trailing by 17-22 points throughout.  Handy-Johnson is an athletic kid who blocked a lot of shots (including several of Orozco’s), grabbed double-digit rebounds and showed some outside shooting skills with a high-arching jump-shot from the top of the ‘key’ (17 points).