The Rio Rico boys basketball team qualified for the state 4A Conference tournament as the No. 6 seed and will host No. 11 Marcos de Niza High School of Tempe in a first-round game at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at RRHS.
"Show up, wear red & be loud!" the team urged its followers in a Twitter post. "Let's go Hawk Nation! It's playoff time!"
The brackets for the state basketball tournaments were announced Sunday morning by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, and the AIA initially set Cactus Shadows (11-7) of Cave Creek as the No. 11 seed and the Hawk boys' first-round opponent. It then re-seeded Marcos De Niza as No. 11.
In other brackets, the Rio Rico Lady Hawks were included in the 16-team 4A girls tournament field as the No. 15 seed. They’ll play at No. 2 Seton Catholic Prep of Chandler, the defending state champions, at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Also qualifying for postseason play: the Patagonia Union High School boys basketball team. The Lobos, who went 9-7 in the regular season, made the 1A Conference tournament as the No. 12 seed. They are set to take on No. 5 St. David (14-4) at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Prescott High School.
The Nogales High School boys (9-9) finished the season ranked No. 17 in the 4A Conference and just missed making the 16-team tournament.
RRHS boys vs. Marcos de Niza
The RRHS boys (15-3) did not play the Padres of Marcos De Niza (12-6) during the season, though the teams faced two common opponents: Nogales and Sunnyside.
The Hawks beat the Apaches 59-39 on Dec. 2 and the Padres topped NHS 74-65 in a preseason tournament on Nov. 25. The Padres defeated Sunnyside 94-84 in the same tournament, while the Hawks lost to Sunnyside 64-60 in a regular-season game Jan. 24.
Rio Rico features a balanced scoring attack anchored by seniors Martin Ochoa (11.8 points per game), Alex Arizpe (10.6), German Arana (10.1) and Luis Quezada (8.1). Rebounding is also a team effort for the guard-heavy Hawks, with four players averaging between three and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Marcos De Niza features one of the top scorers in the state in 6-2 senior guard Mason Stark, who averages 23.2 points per game in addition to leading the team with six rebounds per contest. Stark is also deadly from the free throw line, having set the state record for consecutive foul shots made last season.
Padres senior DeShawn Ray averages 12.1 points and five rebounds and Zurell Livingston, another senior, averages 11.5 points per game. Both are listed as 6-3 wings.
RRHS girls vs. Seton Catholic
The RRHS girls (14-4) and Seton Catholic (17-1) did not meet during the season and did not play any common opponents.
Lizbeth Cruz, a junior, is the Lady Hawks' top scorer at 13.7 points per game followed by sophomore point guard Mina Rodriguez (10) and junior Abril Nerey (9.4). Junior Mia Rodriguez leads the team with 5.8 rebounds per game and senior Andrea Villanueva contributes 3.9 steals per contest.
Junior guard Sarah Barcello, who was the Arizona Republic's Player of the Year in 2015-16, leads Seton Catholic with 18 points per game while also averaging seven rebounds. Senior 6-2 guard Jenn Wirth averages 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds and her twin sister, senior 6-3 forward Leeanne Wirth, adds 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds.
PUHS vs. St. David
PUHS and St. David met once during the regular season with the Lobos falling to the Tigers 59-46 on Jan. 26.
Junior Chris Miranda leads the Lobos with 20.1 points per game and 6-4 sophomore Victor Barajas contributes 16.1 points and 13.6 rebounds. Senior Chris Quiroga is an all-around performer who averages nine points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for Patagonia.
Austin Bryant, a 6-4 swingman, leads St. David with 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.