Section 7

Perry senior Ben Egbo opened the eyes of college coaches at Section 7, as he displayed his ability to be a keystone for the Pumas alongside Cody Williams and Koa Peat. The opportunity to play in front of that many colleges is something he was thankful for. (Dave Minton/GSN Staff)

It’s the premier high school athletics event in Arizona.

Every year it brings numerous high school basketball programs from across the western part of the U.S. and into the Midwest for a four-day showcase. College coaches flock to the Valley to see some of the top talent at Section 7, a tournament hosted by the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

“It’s a great experience, something all of these players will always remember,” Perry coach Sam Duane Jr. said. “What Matt King and the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association have done, what David Hines and the AIA have done to help get this in here, it’s awesome.”

Since announcing its move to State Farm Stadium, Section 7 has grown exponentially. Last year, just under 200 high schools participated. This year, 231 boys and 18 girls’ teams played on 12 courts placed over top of the concrete floor that is typically covered by the Arizona Cardinals’ game field.

Thursday, June 16, marked the official start of the tournament. Teams were split into 14 brackets on the boys’ side while the girls played in one large tournament.

A cast of all Arizona-based schools kicked off the tournament on its first day. Friday was the scheduled start for several others playing in brackets featuring out-of-state opponents.

Perry, the defending 6A champion, played in the Fiesta Bowl Bracket alongside Mountain Pointe. It was arguably the toughest bracket at Section 7 with numerous powerhouse programs involved, including Corona Centennial and Harvard-Westlake out of California.

“Tough bracket but we competed,” Duane said. “This is awesome for us. We battled and we will get better from this.”

Despite being without sophomore star Koa Peat, who was preparing for a USA Basketball U17 training camp the same weekend as Section 7, the Pumas impressed on the biggest stage.

Perry’s first loss of the tournament came Friday against a stout Sierra Canyon team from Utah. They went on to split games Friday against Archbishop Riordan and American Fork before capping off Section 7 on Sunday with a win over Eastside Catholic out of Washington.

Like many others, Duane aimed to provide a unique experience for his players at Section 7. He wanted them to become accustomed to playing tougher competition and to receive exposure to college coaches. That worked as senior guard Cody Williams came away with offers to Arizona and UCLA after the event.

Other players like guard Ben Egbo also cherished the experience. He showed poise and an ability to help lead Perry on the floor. He believes he opened the eyes of college coaches, and that’s all he could ask for.

“It was definitely cool,” Egbo said. “Not every team in Arizona gets to be in here. So, it was definitely an opportunity you want to make the most of. It’s something you dream about, really.”

Other schools from Gilbert took park in the tournament, including Highland, Mesquite boys and girls, Campo Verde, Gilbert and Higley.

Chandler, Hamilton girls and boys, Basha and Valley Christian represented the Chandler area, while Mountain View, Mesa, Desert Ridge, Red Mountain and Dobson represented Mesa.

Queen Creek and Casteel represented the far southeast Valley while Saguaro, Chaparral, Scottsdale Christian, Horizon, Desert Mountain and Rancho Solano all represented Scottsdale. Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe out of Ahwatukee also competed.

Perry’s girls went 2-2 at the tournament on Thursday and Friday. The girls wrapped up their play in two days while most boys went three or four.

Overall, it was a unique experience for all of the team in attendance. And the coaches came away equally as impressed with the Arizona Coaches Basketball Association’s ability to pull off an event of that caliber.

Valley Christian coach Greg Haagsma said it’s the premier high school basketball summer event that takes place in this region of the United States, and perhaps further.

It’s also something he plans to always be a part of for as long as it remains.

“The Arizona Basketball Coaches Association is a premier group of guys who really want basketball done the right way,” Valley Christian coach Greg Haagsma said. “They really put their time and energy to the setup being the easy it is because it markets kids. When you have a group of men like that who are really intent on this, I would be stupid not to be a part of this.

“For as long as we have this, I want to be here.”