Hoops Roundup: A look around the Gila Valley

The regular season is nearly over for high school basketball. Let’s take a look at what the postseason possibilities look like and what each team may need to do to qualify.


The 3A will have a 24-team bracket.  In order to qualify, a school must have scheduled a minimum of 14 games. Based on region standings, the top two teams in each region will earn an automatic bid to the state tournament. 3A Central, 3A Metro West and 3A North will qualify its two teams from the region tournament. The state tournament bracket will be seeded according to the overall ranking of the 24 teams, and will consist of five rounds and will be single elimination.

  • 3A: 14 automatic bids and ten (10) at-large qualifiers based on ranking

As of this writing the Safford Bulldog boys team sits at #16 in the state. The Bulldogs currently sit #2 in the 3A South which would qualify them automatically for the state playoffs. However, they might have the toughest schedule down the stretch. They will play #2 Pusch Ridge twice, Pima, #21 Catalina, #25 Sahuarita, #9 Sabino and #5 Valley Christian between January 22nd and February 8th. Safford will need to at least split their remaining games to qualify for the playoffs and possibly could hold on to that precious 3A South #2 spot and the automatic bid.

The Safford Lady Bulldogs are currently the #5 team in the state. The Lady Bulldogs are 4th in the 3A South and have two of the top 4 teams in the state ahead of them. Safford does possess enough power points to qualify for the playoffs and if they can upset #1 Sabino or #4 Tanque Verde down the stretch you could see their ranking catapult. Throw in games with #9 Pusch Ridge and #12 Valley Christian down the stretch and there will be ample opportunity for Safford to improve their ranking but on the other side there is a chance they slide with losses as well.

Both Safford boys and girls should qualify for the 3A State playoffs that begin February 12th for the girls and February 13th for the boys. There will be no “play-in” this year for the 3A’s and they will have a straight 24 team tournament.


The 2A will have a 16-team bracket. Based on the region standings or the region tournament (as determined by the region), the top two (2) teams in each region will earn an automatic bid at minimum to the conference play-in tournament.  The conference play-in tournament will match up teams ranked No. 9 through No. 24. Teams ranked No. 1 through No. 8, along with the eight winning teams from the conference play-in tournament, will make up the 16-team state tournament. The state tournament bracket will be seeded according to the overall ranking of the 16 teams, and will consist of four rounds and will be single elimination.

  • 2A: Eight (8) automatic bids and eight (8) conference play-in winners

The Thatcher Eagles sit #5 in 2A after a tough regular season schedule. They are #2 in the 2A East behind #1 Morenci. There is only 3 games left on the Eagles regular season schedule. 2 of 3 will be vital for their chances to stay in the top 8 and get the automatic spot in the tournament. The Eagles will play #1 Morenci on January 25th, and #12 Pima on January 31st to end the regular season.

The Thatcher Lady Eagles find themselves in the #9 spot in the state with an 11-2 record. A week conference schedule has not helped their cause. The Eagles 3 games left with Morenci, Benson and Pima. They beat those three by an average of 29 points per game in the first meetings this season. Thatcher should cruise to an undefeated regular season championship and host the conference tournament but still may have to “play in” to the tournament if they can’t get their powerpoint number into the top 8 with those 3 wins.

The Pima Roughrider boys sit #12 in the 2A and 3rd in the 2A East. Coach Cliff Thompson has the Riders firing on all cylinders after a big upset when over 3A #13 Blue Ridge in Lakeside last Saturday. The Riders will have Tombstone, Safford, Willcox and Thatcher left in the regular season. I’m not sure Pima can get into the top 8 even with 4 wins so the Riders will likely have to win a play-in game to get into the official 16 team tournament.

The Lady Rougriders currently sit 21st in the state but they are #2 in the 2A East. Their spot in the #2A East might be the most important factor to get them into the postseason. If Pima can finish at least 2nd in the region tournament they will guarantee themselves at least a spot in the play in games.

The 2A East Region tournaments will be hosted by the regular season champion. As for right now the boys tournament would be in Morenci and the girls would be hosted by Thatcher.

Fort Thomas

The 1A will have a 16-team bracket. In order to qualify, a school must have scheduled a minimum of 14 games. The top two qualifiers in 1A East and 1A West will come from the region tournament. In 1A Central and 1A North, the regular season region champion and the region tournament champion will make up the two qualifiers; however, should the region tournament champion be the same as the regular season champion, the runner-up from the region tournament will be the second automatic qualifier. The state tournament bracket will be seeded according to overall ranking of the 16 teams, and will consist of four rounds and will be single elimination.

  • 1A: 10 automatic bids and six (6) at-large qualifiers based on ranking

The Fort Thomas Apaches are #3 in the state and are the top team in the 1A East. The Apaches have 5 remaining regular season games plus a conference tournament. The Apaches should have no problem securing one of the 10 automatic bids by finishing in the top 2 of the conference tournament and getting a high seed at the state tournament.

The Lady Apaches are 4th in the state and also lead the 1A East. They have only lost 1 game in the 2019 portion of the schedule, a 4 point defeat to #11 St. Michael. They too have 5 regular season games remaining with a conference tournament on January 29th. The Lady Apaches should carry their recent tradition of qualifying for the state tournament with a high seed when the brackets come out.