The azcentral.com Sports Awards, presented by Arby’s, will honor an Athlete of the Year in every sport at the event on April 30.
At the end of each season, azcentral sports will announce three finalists for each Athlete of the Year award. The finalists are listed alphabetically.
All three will be invited to the awards show where the winner will be announced live.
A Coach of the Year in every sport also will be selected at the end of each season. From the winter sports honors, a finalist for the overall Coach of the Year award will be announced and invited to the event.
Tickets are on sale for the event at sportsawards.azcentral.com.
Below, also find the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Arizona Girls Basketball Team and All-Conference teams for the Arizona Interscholastic Association chosen by the azcentral sports staff and the Canyon Athletic Association chosen by that league.
Big Schools Girls Basketball Athlete of the Year finalists
School: Chandler Seton Catholic
It’s almost impossible to pinpoint one player as the reason for Seton Catholic winning two straight state championships and three out of four. But Sarah Barcello isn’t a bad place to start. This year, Barcello averaged 18.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game She shot 40 percent from 3-point range and 52 percent overall.
Perhaps the best barometer of Barcello’s value was that Seton lost to Cave Creek Cactus Shadows in the regular season when Barcello was sidelined with a concussion, then dominated Cactus Shadows in the 4A Conference title game with Barcello on the floor.
“Sarah does it all for us,” Seton Catholic coach Karen Self said.
Self said Barcello’s biggest strength is her work ethic.
“She will not be outworked by anyone, ever,” Self said. “She craves time in the gym working on her shot, her ball handling, anything that will help her improve.”
That work ethic was drilled in Barcello when she was young and nurtured by her basketball-playing older siblings.
“My parents have taught me, along with my other siblings, that things are not just handed to us,” Barcello said. “That we need to work hard in order to achieve what we are striving for. Especially growing up with three older siblings, there is a very competitive atmosphere, and in order to beat them at things, I learned that the only way to do so is to outwork them.”
Barcello has yet to decide where she’ll play college ball, but she’s attracted the interest of Ivy League schools. Self is confident she’ll fit in wherever she goes.
“So many players are worried about their stats, and Sarah just worries about the team,” Self said. “She shares the ball and attacks when necessary. She is so unselfish it is difficult to describe.”
School: Surprise Valley Vista
Watch Valley Vista’s Taylor Chavez on the basketball court and you wonder, “Is there anything she doesn’t do well?”
The 5-foot-9 junior averaged 20.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 4.0 steals as Valley Vista won the 6A Conference state championship. If there was a key shot to be made, she made it. If Valley Vista needed a defensive stop, she was there to shut the opponent’s top scorer down.
“Taylor is a competitive player who is able to score at will and has multiple weapons from her ball handling, scoring through penetration, mid-range shot on and off the dribble, to penetration to the basket with multiple moves,” coach Rachel Matakas said. “She has a deep 3-point shot and is able to slash most defenses with her dribbling skills either to score or pull double or triple teams and make the pass to the open man.”
Chavez, who has narrowed her list of offers to Oregon, Northwestern, DePaul, Washington, California and Baylor, also carries a 4.5 GPA and is ranked by ESPN as the No. 43 player in the class of 2018. Her influences: Washington Huskies star Kelsey Plum and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.
“The way Kelsey Plum scores off of screens and with her pull up is something I try to mirror,” Chavez said. “Kyrie Irving has very good handles and a great passing ability, so watching the way he makes moves and creates passes for others is something I try to pattern.”
Perhaps Chavez’s best attribute?
“She does well under pressure and likes to have the ball in her hands if the game is on the line,” Matakas said. “She is never over excited and the more competitive the game, the better Taylor plays.”
School: Gilbert Mesquite
It’s no surprise that Mesquite’s Shaylee Gonzales excels in basketball. Both of her parents played the game, and she’s had a basketball in her hand since before the third grade. Nor is it a surprise that she was an instrumental figure in Mesquite finishing 31-1 and winning the 5A Conference state championship, the first title in the program’s 20-year history.
Gonzales led her team in scoring for the third year in a row with 19.8 points per game and also averaged 5.7 steals, 6.6 assists and one block per contest. She had five double-doubles and four triple-doubles.
“Shaylee is the best all-around girls basketball player to ever come out of Mesquite, and she has the accolades to prove it,” coach Candice Gonzales, who is Shaylee’s mother, said. “Her team is not the same when she is not on the court. Her court presence is needed in all aspects of the game as she is a well-rounded player and contributes in all areas. She is a true pleasure to coach.”
Shaylee Gonzales said filming her mom’s high school teams as she was growing up helped her basketball IQ. Her parents also passed down their talent and toughness.
“Both of my parents were defensive and aggressive players, and that’s what I get from both of them,” Shaylee Gonzales said. “I get my ball-handling from my dad, but I really want to get the ability to shoot like my mom.”
Shaylee Gonzales will play at Brigham Young University because of the “location, academics, sports and the social environment. I know that I will have the greatest chance to succeed because of those reasons.”
Big Schools Girls Basketball Coach of the Year
School: Phoenix Mountain Pointe
Season recap: The Phoenix Mountain Pointe girls basketball team was a No. 10 seed in the 6A Conference state tournament. Little was expected of the Pride, which lost 10 games in the regular season. Instead, Mountain Pointe reached the 6A semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Surprise Valley Vista. It was a terrific finish for a team that battled adversity much of season. One of those situations occurred in late December when Mountain Pointe traveled to Las Vegas for a tournament and lost to nationally ranked Las Vegas Centennial by 48 points. That might have destroyed a young team with just three seniors. But Mountain Pointe bounced back and won 23 games, an eight-game improvement over the 2015-16 season.
Coach Hager’s comments: “I think what I am most proud about our team is nothing intimidated them. They bought into our system and the culture that we instilled. We fought through some adversity and it made us stronger as the year went along. If there was an injury or someone was sick etc., it was always ‘next man up mentality.’ No one ever hung their heads and complained. I’m proud of how we handled every tough situation. When we had that lopsided loss … sometimes it takes a game like that to make you realize you need to get a lot better, and there is a lot we needed to improve on. I thought this set the tone for January and February. We sort of always referred back to that game as to how hard you have to play on a consistent basis. Watching them grow as individuals and gain more confidence as the year went on was very special for our coaching staff to see. Obviously, getting these kids back to the final four for the first time since 2001-02 was special, but without them buying into what we needed out of them day in and day out, it would have never happened. I am so proud of how they grew as individuals.”
Small Schools Girls Basketball Athlete of the Year finalists
School: Chandler Valley Christian
Let’s start with this: It’s not really true that Megan Timmer was a guard for Valley Christian’s state championship team this season. She played wherever her dad and coach, Scott Timmer, needed her.
“From point guard to post,” Scott Timmer said.
While the positions changed, Megan Timmer’s impact didn’t. She averaged 20 points per game and was selected by 3A Conference coaches as the 3A Player of the Year. More importantly, she led Valley Christian to a 120-8 record over the past four seasons.
That gaudy record, however, didn’t translate into a state title until this season after runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2016. But what an ending, given it was the final game of Megan’s career and, as it turned out, the final game Scott Timmer was coach; he resigned after the season in order to spend more time watching his son play next year.
“It was amazing winning a state title with my dad,” Megan Timmer said. “It meant a lot because of how much time we have spent in the gym and working for that title. Coming up short so many times became very tiring and disappointing. I feel like my basketball career is now complete.”
Megan Timmer will play basketball at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott. Her legacy at Valley Christian, her father said, will have as much to do with what she did off the court as on it.
“Megan has completed hundreds of hours of community service, which include cleaning homes of older ladies in the community, taking care of toddlers at her church and heading up the school mission trip to Romania,” Scott Timmer said.
Turns out Megan’s versatility isn’t limited to basketball.
School: Valley Sanders
It’s hard to imagine many players doing more for their team than Valiyah Yazzie did for Valley Sanders’ state championship team this season. There’s the statistics, for one: 14.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 4.5 assists per game. She shot 51 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range.
But the numbers only begin to define Yazzie’s contribution.
“Valiyah is the hardest working student-athlete that I have worked with in the past two years as head coach at Valley Sanders High School,” coach Dorothy Mitchell said. “She leads by example and is a relentless basketball player. She is a quiet leader and she leads by demonstration more so than vocalizing, and she understands the game of basketball to get all her teammates involved when running plays for the betterment of team.”
Yazzie comes by basketball naturally. Both of her parents played, as well as her older siblings. But none of them were fortunate enough to win two rings in two years.
“The first time winning a state title was unbelievable, exciting and tears of joy,” Yazzie said. “Winning another state title back-to-back was very exciting. We played against a big team that was huge and tall, but we didn’t let that get to us nor me because I was the smallest on the team.”
Mitchell is just as proud of Yazzie’s leadership off the court.
“She has come into my class on numerous occasions and has made friends with my low-functioning students, and has had conversations with them to promote oral language skills for these students,” Mitchell said. “She will be a person that will figure out what she has to do to be successful, and then she will go about getting it done.”
School: Tucson The Gregory School
The day after a state semifinal loss would not normally be a work day for most high school athletes. But, then, Taylor Thompson isn’t like most athletes her age. Less than 24 hours after The Gregory School lost in the 1A Conference semifinals to Rock Point, Thompson was back in the gym, working on her shooting.
“That’s the story that sums her up,” coach Josh Dickinson said. “Taylor Thompson is the type of person and player that every coach dreams about having on their team. As a player, Taylor puts in hours of focused practice outside of normal team requirements. Her dedication and self-motivation has allowed her to mix her natural athletic talent with a mastery of the fundamentals of basketball. It is this solid foundation that has made her the great player that she is.”
The 5-foot-10 Thompson filled up the box score, averaging 27 points, four rebounds, 2.5 steals and one block per game despite often being the sole focus of a defense’s attention. It’s probably a good thing, then, that she gave up soccer when she was 7 years old.
“My parents went to sign me up for the next seasons, and I told them that I didn’t want to play anymore,” Thompson said. “They told me that I couldn’t sit at home and do nothing. I soon decided that I wanted to play basketball even though I had never touched a basketball in my life. I immediately fell in love with it.”
Thompson will play at Concordia University in Portland, Ore.
Small Schools Girls Basketball Coach of the Year
School: Valley Sanders
Season recap: Valley Sanders went 26-2 this year and won its second straight 2A Conference state championship. Given that, you’d expect this season would have been a smooth ride for coach Dorothy Mitchell. But that always wasn’t the case. Mitchell had to work through some team unrest early in the season before Valley Sanders hit its groove and proved unbeatable in the postseason. Some of Valley Sanders’ new players had superior skills than the holdovers from last year’s state title team. That created tension and some distrust. But, ironically, it was a 53-52 loss to Ganado on Jan. 19 that might have served as the season’s turning point. Mitchell’s players realized they needed to play with more intensity, and the result was immediate and significant: Valley Sanders didn’t lose a game the rest of the season and outscored its four playoff opponents by a combined 145 points.
Coach Mitchell’s comments: “We had to accept new players that had basketball skills that might have surpassed what the former championship team expected, which created tension amongst our team at the beginning of the season. Also, trust was an issue and it reflected on the court. We had times where we would watch and have other players do the work and that was frustrating. We all needed to be in the game and make contributions even if it was cheering from the bench and being positive. The team felt like they deserved court time, at all times, and this created adversity. But they took the challenge to leave everything on the court and just being together in the gym and locker room made room for us to become a family, even when we did not agree, we came to a compromise and that made our season special.”
American Family Insurance ALL-USA Arizona Girls Basketball Team
Sarah Barcello, Chandler Seton Catholic, 5-11, Jr.
Big Schools AOY last year, she was the catalyst behind a second 4A championship in a row.
Taylor Chavez, Surprise Valley Vista, 5-9, Jr.
A repeat All-Arizona performer who did it all leading Valley Vista to the 6A final.
Shaylee Gonzales, Gilbert Mesquite, 5-9, Jr.
She was the Gatorade Arizona POY after leading Mesquite to 31 wins and the 5A title.
Maya Banks, Chandler Hamilton, 6-3, Sr.
Best post player in the state could change the game at both ends of the court for 6A power.
Jenn Wirth, Chandler Seton Catholic, 6-2, Sr.
With her twin sister out most of the season with an injury, she became the perfect complement to Barcello on the state’s best girls team.
Maya Banks, Hamilton, 6-3, Sr.
Taylor Chavez, Valley Vista, 5-9, Jr.
Maddie Fredericks, Hamilton, 5-11, Jr.
Haley Cavinder, Gilbert, 5-6, So.
Olivia Vernon, Gilbert Perry, 5-6, Sr.
Diamond Fuller, Mesa, 5-10, Sr.
Hanna Cavinder, Gilbert, 5-6, So.
Kiara Edwards, Valley Vista, 6-0, Sr.
Shauna Bribiescas, Mesa Dobson, 5-11, Sr.
Dominique Phillips, Goodyear Millennium, 5-10, So.
Alyssa Alvarez, Phoenix Horizon, 5-7, So.; Sentia Bryant, Mesa Desert Ridge, 6-0, Jr.; Kenya Duran, Phoenix Maryvale, 6-0, Sr.; Madison Golla, Phoenix Desert Vista, 5-8, Sr.; Abbey Jensen, Yuma Kofa, 6-0, Sr.; Carletta Jones, Kofa, 6-0, Sr.; Jilly Licurgo, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, 6-1, Jr.; Victoria Mason, Chandler, 5-6, Fr.; Montana Oltrogge, Phoenix Xavier, 6-1, Jr.; Baily Osmer, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 5-8, Sr.; Sydney Palma, Anthem Boulder Creek, Jr.; Leilani Peat, Tempe Corona del Sol, 6-0, Sr.; Jenise Strover, Mountain Pointe, 6-1, Sr.; Vanessa Veloz, Tolleson, 5-3, Sr.; Amaya West, Mesa Red Mountain, 5-10, Jr.
Shaylee Gonzales, Mesquite, 5-9, Jr.
Lindsey VanAllen, Mesquite, 5-8, Jr.
Lauren Gustin, Mesquite, 6-1, Jr.
Bryce Nixon, Phoenix Arcadia, 5-10, Jr.
Jenay Bojorquez, Phoenix Sierra Linda, 5-6, Sr.
Maddie Vick, Scottsdale Chaparral, 5-7, Jr.
Janae Gonzales, Sierra Linda, 5-8, Jr.
Emily Henderson, Glendale Ironwood, 5-8, Sr.
Tyra Williams, Maricopa, 6-0, Sr.
Lacee Jenkins, Gilbert Williams Field, 5-8, Jr.
Marlena Arroyo, Gilbert Campo Verde, 6-0, Jr.; Natalie Bartle, Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge, 5-6, Jr.; Sydni Callis, Maricopa, 5-7, Jr.; Joanna Campbell, Phoenix South Mountain, Jr.; Danielle Cassady, Ironwood, 5-6, Sr.; Kylie Fisher, Chaparral, 5-6, Sr.; Tatianna Hope, Paradise Valley, 5-6, Sr.; Mackenzie Kinsel, Goodyear Desert Edge, 5-8, Jr.; Taylor Leonard, Peoria Centennial, 5-8, Jr.; Summer Menke, Chaparral, 5-10, Jr.; Sarah Metli, Scottsdale Notre Dame, Jr.; Alyssa Perez, Marana, 5-6, Jr.
Sarah Barcello, Chandler Seton, 5-11, Jr.
Jenn Wirth, Seton, 6-2, Sr.
Jacqulynn “J.J.” Nakai, Flagstaff Coconino, 5-7, Sr.
Caitlin Bickle, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, 6-0, Jr.
Kelsey Siemons, Tucson Catalina Foothills, 6-1, Sr.
Alicia Reyes, Tucson Pueblo, 5-6, Jr.
Tianna Carter, Canyon del Oro, 6-0, So.
Seniesha Sekaquaptewa, Scottsdale Saguaro, 5-6, Sr.
Noni Thomas, Flagstaff, 5-10, Sr.
Leila El-Ali, Oro Valley Canyon del Oro, 5-8, Sr.
Elle Baker, Saguaro, 6-4, Jr.; Alexis Carmosino, Phoenix Thunderbird, 5-9, Jr.; Taylor Davis, Casa Grande, 6-1, Jr.; Tierney DeDonatis, Cactus Shadows, 5-6, Sr.; Ilyssa Diamond Galindo, Pueblo, 5-5, Jr.; Emma Farnham, Goodyear Estrella Foothills, 5-6, Jr.; Natalie Harper, Gilbert Higley, 5-9, So.; Joyce Jordan, Phoenix St. Mary’s, 5-10, Sr.; Liz Holter, Seton, 5-6, Sr.; Kendall Krick, Seton, Jr.; Araceli Loya, Pueblo, 5-7, Sr.; Lily Mika, Goodyear Estrella Foothills, 5-4, So.; Senya Rabouin, Phoenix Shadow Mountain, 5-4, Fr.; Hannah Weller, Yuma Gila Ridge, Sr.
Anna Gorman, Valley Christian, 5-4, Jr.
Megan Timmer, Chandler Valley Christian, 6-0, Sr.
Crystal Haase, Safford, 5-5, Sr.
JaeLynn Curley, Ganado, 5-5, Sr.
Madison Chappel, Holbrook, 5-6, Fr.
Bethany Wolph, Valley Christian, 5-5, Sr.
LeLisa Watson, Page, 5-10, Jr.
Deion Abalos, Safford, 5-8, So.
Bree Olson, Tucson Pusch Ridge, 5-10, Sr.
Kayla Furman, Florence, 5-9, Jr.
Angie Andreas, Valley Christian, 5-8, Sr.; McKynna Bungard, Wickenburg, 6-1, Sr.; Autumn Byjoe, Tuba City, Jr.; Anabelle Durazo, Sahuarita, 5-10, Sr.; Mikayla Flores, Florence, 5-7, Sr.; Dasia Fox, Tucson Santa Rita, Jr.; Tia Heggie, Queen Creek American Leadership, 5-7, Jr.; Vanessa James, Fort Defiance Window Rock, Jr.; Nahatabaa Nacona, Chinle, Sr.; Ariyana Pratt, Holbrook, Sr.; Ava Rauschen, Tucson Tanque Verde, 5-10, Sr.; Emily Shreves, Tucson Empire, 5-3, So.
Valiyah Yazzie, Sanders Valley, So.
Prima Chellis, Gilbert Leading Edge, 5-11, Jr.
Liza Westervelt, Sedona Red Rock, Jr.
Kylie Hearn, Scottsdale Christian, 5-7, So.
Macee Bingham, Thatcher, 5-11, Sr.
Jackie Iafrate, Scottsdale Christian, 5-4, Sr.
Sabyn Martinez, Morenci, 5-8, Sr.
Justine Cooper, Chandler Prep, So.
Gillian Barfield, Phoenix Country Day, 6-2, Sr.
Brielle McKinney, Leading Edge, 5-7, Sr.
Brittany Barney, Willcox, 5-4, Jr.; Beyonce Cutter, San Carlos, So.; Quinci Dalley, Tonopah Valley, 5-0, So.; Kenzie Knippers, Phoenix Horizon Honors, Jr.; Samantha Madrid, Eagar Round Valley, 5-7, So.; Olivia Mulloy, Chandler Prep, So.; Mandi Nemire, Scottsdale Prep, 5-4, So.; Pilar Rivera, Horizon Honors, So.; Alexis Sports, Scottsdale Christian, 5-8, Sr.; Izzy White, Tombstone, 5-9, Sr.; Victoria Zebb, Gilbert Christian, Jr.
Taylor Thompson, Tucson The Gregory School, 5-10, Sr.
Shelby Yocum, Kearny Ray, 5-8, Fr.
Makayla Roe, Anthem Prep, 5-8, So.
Blossom Gonzales, Sells Baboquivari, 5-7, Jr.
Brenna Pillsbury, Anthem Prep, 5-6, So.
Hilda Soqui, Salome, 5-8, So.
Melisha Jeter-Nanacasia, Grand Canyon, 5-5, Jr.
Cayli Miles, Grand Canyon, 5-2, Fr.
Lindsey Lunt, Duncan, 5-5, Sr.
Ashley Measel, Phoenix Valley Lutheran, 5-9, Jr.
Brianna Arriaga, Winterhaven (Calif.) San Pasqual, 5-7, So.; Amanda Baldwin, Joseph City, 5-4, Sr.; Carina Cruickshank, Tucson Academy of Tucson, Jr.; Kiara Goseyun, Fort Thomas, 5-3, Sr.; Alexus Ingraham, Winterhaven (Calif.) San Pasqual, 5-11, Sr.; Michelle Loveall, Bagdad, 5-6, So.; Savannah Rodriguez, Ray, 5-3, Jr.; C. Rourke, Bowie-San Simon, 5-5, So.; Kourtney Trejo, St. David, 5-6, Jr.
Canyon Athletic Association All-Division 1
Marrisa Ulate, AZ Compass, Senior (CAA Player of the Year)
Alyssa McGary, Arrowhead Christian, Senior
Skye Lucero, AZ Compass, Senior
Anya Bobo, Desert Heights Prep, Senior
Emily Ferrier, Trinity Christian School, Senior
Dayanna Nieto, Thunderbird Adventist Academy, Senior
Elly McAniff, Phoenix College Prep, Junior
Alliyah Silver, AZ Compass, Junior
Vanessa Garcia, Madison Highland Prep, Sophomore
Bekah Langdeau, Tri-City Christian Academy, Freshman
Megan Mattingly, Trinity Christian School, Eighth Grade
Coach of the Year: Rose Peterson, AZ Compass Prep
Canyon Athletic Association All-Division 2
Calee Cortes, Imagine Prep Surprise, Senior
Michaela Burke, EVAC, Senior
Tatum Landis, EVAC, Senior
Alyssa Estrada, Sequoia Pathway, Senior (CAA Player of the Year)
Desire Pacheco, Salt River, Junior
Kaitlynn Clardy, EVAC, Junior
McKenzie Dockerty, Salt River, Sophomore
Aleina Estrada, Sequoia Pathway, Freshman
Kendal Baranski, Paradise Valley Christian, Freshman
Miracle Brown-Jeter, ALA Ironwood, Freshman
Coach of the Year: Dan Landis, East Valley Athletes for Christ (EVAC)