Winslow basketball fans find themselves in the middle of the best two weeks of the season. The best 16 teams in the 3A Conference in both the boys' and girls' divisions began playing for the Arizona State 3A Conference Championship on Tuesday.
There were games in Flagstaff yesterday and will be games today and Friday as each division is paired down to the final four girls' and boys' teams.
Both Winslow teams entered the tournament with high hopes of continuing their title quests another week in the semi-finals and finals in Glendale Arena on Feb. 24 and 25.
The Winslow girls will be going for their third straight state championship and the seventh in Coach Don Petranovich's long and storied career.
The boys will be trying to get Coach Charlie Gover his fourth state championship. Gover's three previous state titles came while he was the head coach of the Tuba City Warriors when that team won three straight titles.
The most serious threats to the Winslow girls might come from regional rivals Monument Valley and Ganado. The Monument Valley Lady Mustangs actually had four wins in as many games over the 2005 Lady Bulldogs, but were eliminated by Seton Catholic in the semi-finals. Winslow went on to demolish the Lady Sentinels in the Championship Game in one of the best and most dominating contests ever turned in by a Winslow team. Monument Valley defeated Winslow in both regular season contests between the two teams this season. Winslow and Ganado split regular season games.
Other teams that figure to have something to say about who walks off with the trophy are the Snowflake Lady Lobos, Seton Catholic and the Round Valley Lady Elks. All are formidable, but the Lady Lobos are probably the best team not a member of the 3A North Region.
The Winslow boys could have trouble with the Window Rock Scouts again. The Scouts gave Winslow its only regional loss in the final game of the regular season. The guess here, though, is that the chances of these teams meeting again are slim.
There are a number of talented teams from other regions. The Holbrook Roadrunners lost to Winslow early in the season, but have rolled over everyone else. The Fountain Hills Falcons gave Winslow its only defeat in the Cake Chevrolet Winslow Shoot-Out Tournament.
The Bulldogs have improved greatly since that night and are certainly capable of reversing the outcome in a rematch.
The state tournament will continue in Glendale on Feb. 24 and 25 after the field has been reduced to four teams. This is usually one of the real highlights of any basketball season as teams from several different conferences will be playing for their championships and the real fan can watch some good high school basketball all day long.
The two things I would like to see done to improve last year's tournament would be supplying a place for coaches and officials to meet and turning down the sound system.