Steve Carter File Photos/Special to the Gila Herald: Pima Boys Basketball head coach Cliff Thompson, shown here with his team with the state championship gold ball, has been awarded the 2A Conference Boys Basketball Coach of the year, and Ashlyn Chlarson, right, shown here scoring in the state championship game, has been awarded the 2A Conference Girls Offensive Player of the Year.
By Jon Johnson
PHOENIX – The Arizona Interscholastic Association has announced the 2A Conference Boys and Girls Basketball Recognitions and Pima Boys head coach Cliff Thompson has been awarded Coach of the Year, and Pima Girls basketball starting center Ashlynn Chlarson was named Player of the Year.
The Pima Boys and Girls basketball teams had several members honored in a variety of categories, including numerous on the all-conference teams.
2A Conference Coach of the Year – Cliff Thompson
After leading the Roughriders to an unbeaten conference regular season, Thompson coached Pima to their first state basketball championship since 1984 with a 47-37 victory over the Highland Prep Honey Badgers.
Thompson’s defensive coaching style saw the Roughriders limit their opponents with additional playoff victories of 58-38 over Veritas Prep, 52-43 over Trivium Prep, and 53-41 over Arizona Lutheran.
It is an ingrained defensive style that Pima teams have been working on for roughly eight years, culminating with this group of seniors who started in the junior leagues.
In his modesty, Thompson gave credit for the award to his team.
“It’s just a reflection of how well our kids did this year,” he said.
2A Conference Girls Offensive Player of the Year – Ashlynn Chlarson
Was this ever in question? Chlarson tore through the 2A Conference this year, and finished with 623 points; averaging double/double with 20.8 points and 11.2 rebounds per game on 49 percent shooting.
Chlarson led her team to a 28-3 record and a third state championship game, falling 43-54 to Phoenix Country Day.
2A Conference Boys Defensive Player of the Year – Pierce and Grant Ashby
Just as in the region awards, the 2A East Conference Player of the Year Award has been given to Pima twins Pierce and Grant Ashby.
The duo wreaked havoc on opponents all season long with Grant harassing the guards out front while Pierce simply rejected or altered anything anyone dared bring into the painted area.
They both excelled in the state championship game as well, with Grant limiting Highland Prep’s Presley Ibeh to 10 points on 3-6 shooting while Pierce had 7 blocks in the game.
A lot of other schools’ coaches recognize that we’re a good defensive team,” coach Thompson said. “And them being co-defensive player of the year was unanimous. And, actually, Seth (Russell) being on the first team was unanimous as well.”
2A Conference Boys All-Conference 1st Team
Seth Russell, Pima; Kohen Hill, Highland Prep; Presley Ibeh, Highland Prep; Royce Ramos, Rancho Solano Prep; Kyle Bonner, San Tan Charter; Zaire Richardson, San Tan Charter.
Local Honorable Mention: Tristen Sanchez, Morenci; Joendy Ruiz, Willcox
2A Conference Boys Player of the Year – Tommy Randolph, Phoenix Christian
2A Conference Boys Offensive Player of the Year – Stephan Iron Shell, Arizona Lutheran
2A Conference Girls All-Conference 1st Team
Jayci McClain, Pima; Helen Westervelt, Sedona Red Rock; Rachel Roderick, Sedona Red Rock; Aila Kaibara, Phoenix Country Day; Ellysia Cutter, San Carlos; Kaelynn Nez, Valley (Sanders).
Local Honorable Mention: Ella Wiltbank, Pima
2A Conference Girls Coach of the Year – Sean Newland, Phoenix Country Day
2A Conference Girls Defensive Player of the Year – Kimi Cahoon, Phoenix Country Day
2A Conference Girls Player of the Year – Olivia Owens, Phoenix Country Day