On Saturday, March 4, the Brophy Basketball team lost in the 6A State Championship game on a last second three from Highland’s Hayden Winegar. The season began more than four months prior, however.
Tryouts for the Varsity Basketball teams took place the week of October 31, 2022. The roster was one of the youngest in memory, featuring three sophomores and two freshmen.
The team was headlined by returning starters Arman Madi ’23 and Braeden Speed ’24. Madi was the reigning 6A Premier Region Player of the Year, and Speed had won the Region Defensive Player of the Year Award during the 2021-22 season. Head Coach Mr. Matt Hooten led the team for his eighth season.
The Broncos started their season with a double-digit win over Desert Vista on Tuesday, November 29. Afterwards came two more wins over Millenium and Sunnyslope, giving the team a quick 3-0 start.
At the tail end of the Millenium game, however, the group suffered a huge loss. Connor Fitzgerald ’23, a starter and “senior leader”, according to Mr. Hooten, suffered a season-ending knee injury.
After Sunnyslope, Brophy played three tournaments in quick succession, with mixed results. Two consecutive losses in the Hoophall Classic was followed by back-to-back wins over Chandler and Salpointe. Then the Broncos split four games in the Visit Mesa Basketball Challenge.
Finally, the team was scheduled to play in the Lee Schwab Invitational in Oregon, which featured some of the top prep basketball teams from around the country. However, due to nationwide flight cancellations, the Broncos were not able to make it to Oregon. They quickly pivoted, however, taking a bus to the Desert Holiday Classic in Palm Springs, California.
“The way that our whole community rallied together to make the trip to the Desert Holiday Classic happen was nothing short of amazing. From our families being able to shift gears from one trip to the next in less than 24 hours, to our school administration and staff ensuring that we had buses and hotels for our trip, to our players being able to get off the buses after a five hour bus ride and compete in our first game less than thirty minutes later, the whole process was inspiring,” said Mr. Hooten.
Not only did the team make it in time to play all four of their games, they also went 4-0 over three days to raise their record to 12-4.
During the month of January, the Broncos got on a roll winning eight of ten games, most of which were against fellow 6A Premier Region opponents. A highlight came on Hoopcoming, January 21.
Although the team lost 67-58 to the eventual Open Division Champion Perry Pumas, they played in front of a completely full Robson Gymnasium. “[It was] a great environment and great game,” Mr. Hooten said.
The Broncos finished the regular season with 20-7, and were the sixth overall seed in the Open Division bracket. In the first round, they faced Mesquite, winning 80-63.
In the second round they squared off against a Basha team that they had beaten twice during the regular season. However, the Broncos got off to a slow start and fell 57-49 to the Bears. Since Brophy had lost in the first two rounds of the Open Division Bracket, they dropped down to compete for the 6A State Championship.
Brophy won back-to-back games against Chandler and Cesar Chavez to advance to the semifinals of the 6A bracket, where they faced Boulder Creek Jaguars. Boulder Creek had proved a tough foe during the regular season, beating Brophy on January 6.
With eight seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars and Broncos were tied 63-63. After a stop on defense, Conner Ivy ’23 grabbed a rebound and passed it up to Madi, who banked in a 35 foot three-pointer in Robson Gymnasium. Students stormed the court, and the shot was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 Plays.
As their final opponent of the season, the Brophy Broncos and Highland Hawks squared off at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, March 4 for the 6A State Championship. Brophy was looking for its first ever basketball state championship.
The two played a thrilling game that went not one but two overtimes. The Hawks won 63-61 thanks to a heartbreaking, last second three-pointer from Hayden Winegar.
Even though the team was unable to capture the title, the experience was still extremely valuable. When asked what it meant to play in the game, Speed said, “It means a lot. Obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted but it was a good experience for myself and the people on the team that are returning.”
Especially with such a young team, Mr. Hooten said that he could not have been more proud of the Broncos. “It was a unique opportunity to see how much we could grow over the course of the season. To be able to go from that starting place to the 6A championship game was pretty incredible.”