Arizona’s top girls’ HS basketball players to start playing in the region

A look at who stood out in the first two weeks of regional play in Arizona high school women’s basketball (players are named by their coaches and listed alphabetically):

Amya Bekele, Mesa Red Mountain, G, So.

At 4-11, Red Mountain has had a tough start to the season. Bekele, however, was a bright spot. In Thursday’s three-point loss to Mesa Mountain View, she had 16 of Red Mountain’s 33 points, along with four rebounds, two steals and a block.

Trayanna Crisp, Goodyear Millennium, G, Sr.

It’s no surprise to see Crisp fill his seemingly weekly spot on this list. After scoring 14 in Millennium’s last-second loss to Surprise Valley Vista, she has a combined 55 wins over Waddell Canyon View and Gilbert.

Eanae Dagons, Phoenix Desert Vista, G, So.

Dagons runs the show for Desert Vista at both ends of the floor by directing his stifling press and serving as coach Dave Williams’ starting point guard. She effectively filled both roles in Monday’s win over Chandler Basha, finishing with 18 points, six assists and five steals.

Sasha Daniel, Catholic Chandler Seton, G, Sr.

In three straight wins coming out of the Christmas break for Seton Catholic, Daniel averaged 17.3 points per game on 56% shooting. In 17 games, she has scored in single digits only twice.

Madi Dawson, Queen Creek, G/F, Jr.

Queen Creek snapped a three-game losing streak on Jan. 11 against Mesa Desert Ridge. Dawson was critical in that effort, scoring 21 of the Bulldogs’ 45 points while also collecting five assists and six rebounds.

Mackenzie Dunham, Sunrise Mountain, F, Jr.

With five straight wins to start 2022, Sunrise Mountain have established themselves among the top teams in 5A at 14-2. Dunham had one of the best performances of this streak, scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 boards in the Mustangs’ 54-25 win over Surprise Willow Canyon on Jan. 7.

Kelsey Ericksen, Surprise Shadow Ridge, G, Sr.

Ericksen has been a consistent force for 13-7 Shadow Ridge. In three games in 2022 — all wins — she has 18, 12 and 15 points.

Talia Estrada, Leading Edge Academy-GEC, G, Sr.

In 1A, Estrada was dominant for Leading Edge Academy. In back-to-back wins over Scottsdale Cicero Prep and Bullhead City Mohave Accelerated last week, she tallied 55 points, while adding an impressive 10 steals in this latest contest.

Janae Floyd, Glendale Mountain Ridge, F, Jr.

At No. 11 in the latest AIA 6A rankings, Mountain Ridge hasn’t gotten as much love this season as its 17-1 record suggests. The Mountain Lions, however, rebounded well from their only loss of the year with three straight wins. Floyd was huge in this streak. She scored 20 on January 11 against Anthem Boulder Creek before following up with 21 the following night against Peoria Liberty.

Leyah Gewargis, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, G, Sr.

Allowing just 35.7 points per game in his 13-3 start, O’Connor usually hangs his hat on defense. In the Jan. 11 52-31 win over Scottsdale Chaparral, however, the Eagles got 20 points and four assists from Gewargis — his season-high totals in either category.

Brooke Hancock, Scottsdale Christian, F, Sr.

Hancock led the Eagles with 19 points in their 49-44 win over Phoenix Christian on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. They are now 9-5 on the season.

Rayn Holton, Queen Creek Casteel, G, Sr.

Despite being 5-foot-7 and playing in the backcourt, Holton has established herself as a dominant force on the boards this season. In Casteel’s Jan. 13 win over Gilbert Williams Field, she had 16 rebounds to go with a game-high 21 points.

Ashiian Hunter, Mesa, G, Jr.

Hunter posted her first single-digit game of the season in last week’s 47-35 win over Mesa Skyline, but she’s still averaging 19.0 points per game in the new year and 18.8 on the season. Also, in that Skyline game, she recorded a new season high with seven assists.

January 11, 2022;  Mesa Girls' basketball guard Ashiian Hunter shoots a three-point attempt in the Jackrabbits' rivalry road game at Westwood High School.

Ella Malee, Chandler Hamilton, G, So.

Malee averaged 16.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game in straight wins over Chandler Basha and Tempe Corona del Sol this week. Now the schedule is getting tough for the Huskies, with games against Gilbert Perry and Phoenix Xavier Prep.

Sarah Miller, Phoenix Xavier Prep, G, So.

The reason Xavier Prep is so hard? Well, it’s simple. They have Miller, who is arguably the best sophomore in the state. With 19.8 points per game, she’s been huge for the Gators this season and last week posted a new career-high 35 points against Phoenix South Mountain.

Ava Pautz, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, G/F, So.

Over the past month, Notre Dame Prep has battled both injuries and COVID-19. Pautz, however, anchored the Saints. She’s averaging 18.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game and started 2022 with consecutive 20-point performances.

Aiyana Perkins, Tempe McClintock, G, Fr.

Despite being a freshman, Perkins was McClintock’s best player in his 9-6 start, averaging over 20 points per game. On January 4, she had her best performance to date with a season-high 35 points in a win over Avondale West Point.

Arianna Rayford, Phoenix Paradise Valley, C, Sr.

In Paradise Valley’s first two sectional games, Rayford scored 37 points – 68.5% of the Trojans’ total scoring. She also added 16 rebounds in that streak.

Macy Rojas, Peoria Centennial, G, Sr.

Thanks to Rojas, Centennial picked up their most impressive victory of the season on Friday against Yuma Gila Ridge. In the 10-point win, Rojas scored 22 of the Coyotes’ 36 points.

Ashlyn Swenson, Chandler Basha, G, Sr.

Swenson scored a career-high 18 points in Basha’s 45-25 win over Scottsdale Chaparral on Thursday. She did a lot of her work on the line, hitting six free throws to help the Bears snap a two-game losing streak.

Dillon Swindle, Phoenix Desert Vista, G, Fr.

Swindle – Desert Vista’s leading scorer – had 25 points in the Thunder’s 70-40 win over Gilbert Highland on Friday. Their six games in 2022 have been won by more than 20 points.

Miquedah Taliman, Page, G, Sr.

Taliman has become a regular on this list in Page’s eight-game winning streak. A pair of hard-fought wins this week showed why. First, she hit a game-winning pair of free throws to beat Whiteriver Alchesay, 59-58. Two days later, she made a critical three-point play to beat Chinle, 39-37. Of the two wins, Taliman averaged 18.5 points per game.

Theo Mackie covers Arizona high school sports and Phoenix Rising FC. He can be reached by email at theo.mackie@gannett.com and on Twitter @theo_mackie.