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Cameron Smith

Star-crossed Arizona team loses fifth straight state title game

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

When it comes to championship-game heartbreak, no team can come close to Pinnacle (Ariz.) High's girls basketball team. Not the Buffalo Bills, not even the Chicago Cubs. For the fifth straight season, Pinnacle fell in the state championship game. For the third straight season, it fell in the Class 5A final to Tolleson (Ariz.) High. This time, the final score was 65-47.

While Pinnacle coach Jackie Clayton insisted that she was proud of her team's accomplishments, it was hard for her players to overlook the fact that all of the current senior class' losses in the playoffs came in a state title game. For a talented senior class that includes Arizona-signee Aley Rohde, that's a hard pill to swallow.

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Amazingly, those four losses were exactly the same as the ones that befell the Class of 2010, too.

"I'm proud of my kids," Pinnacle coach Jackie Clayton told the East Valley Tribune. "It's a tribute to them to be here this many times."

Yet, for the fifth straight season, Pinnacle heads into the spring sports season without a girls basketball title, despite entering against a painfully familiar foe. Tolleson has won the past five meetings between the two teams, three of them yielding state championships, and even Pinnacle's significant size advantage could do little to turn the tide of Friday's championship game. Pinnacle forced Tolleson out to the perimeter, and Tolleson obliged by draining 3-pointers and extending its lead.

As one might imagine, there are reasons for Clayton and Pinnacle to be optimistic. The team's most influential playmaker beside Rohde was a sophomore, Sydney Wiese, pictured on the right above, who scored an amazing 35 points in the Class 5A semifinals and added 17 in her team's championship game loss. As the Arizona Republic's Scott Bordow noted, she could be truly unstoppable by the time she's a senior. That's not to mention Britta Nordstrom and Kenna McDavis, both of whom could become equally significant factors in Pinnacle's immediate future.

That's the good news. The bad news is that, with Pinnacle's luck, it may need Wiese to be unstoppable if its ever going to win a state title, particularly if it keeps having to go through Tolleson.

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