After a win over American Leadership Academy – Gilbert North, the Sahuaro boys’ basketball team will have the chance to win the state title for the first time since 2001.

Its been 23 years since the last time the Sahuaro boys’ basketball program saw a state title, but come Thursday the Cougars have a chance to put those years behind them.

We really focus on tradition,” Sahuaro Assistant Basketball Coach Matt Botkin said. Were so happy these guys get to experience this, its something you dont get to be a part of very often.

Botkin was on that 2001 team and now has the chance to be coach of a state championship team.

But Botkin isnt the only one on the staff with ties to Sahuaro.

The coaches on our staff, were all former players,” Botkin said.

All five coaches are Sahuaro alumni. Head coach Jim Henry coached under Sahauro icon Dick McConnell.

For a young coach to be able to kind of learn from a legend was huge and weve tried to continue to run our program to the way we think Coach McConnell would have done it,” Henry said.

Both Sahuaros last state title and the 2006 final four came during the McConnell era.

When I sort of brought that year up to the guys, one of our seniors commented Oh coach, thats the year I was born’,” Henry said. “I said ‘yeah, so realize what it is you guys are doing right now’.

For senior captains Bryce Marine Bess and Nick Ponds, the two hope to end their final season winning it all.

It’ll being my last game. Im a little nervous but its just another game at the end of the day,” Marine Bess said. “Once that tip-off happens, everything’s just peaceful and youve just got to play.

Im sad but Im happy because this is the game I wanted to be my last,” Ponds said. “If I can go out on a state chip, thats the best way to go.

The Cougars take the court at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, 1826 W. McDowell Road, against Deer Valley Thursday at 8 p.m.



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