Deer Valley Basketball reflects on championship with celebration | Sports

By Joe McHugh, Peoria Times Staff Writer
6 Min Read

Even a week removed from their 4A State Championship victory, members of the Deer Valley basketball program were still in shock of the history they had just created. 

Of the decades worth of basketball players to pass through the school, the group of 19 young men are the only ones to call themselves state champions. 

To commemorate the achievement, they were celebrated in front of the Skyhawk student body on March 8 with an assembly and activities fit for the top 4A team in the state. 

“Just walking through the hallways and seeing the teachers that have been here for 20, 30 years, their excitement made it even more special for me,” head coach Jed Dunn said. “I’m super proud of them that they got a state championship, and I feel like they earned it. 

“We talked about how they didn’t deserve it, but they earned it. They certainly did. And I’m super thankful for them.”

Opening up with recognition for other winter sports programs, the basketball team headlined the event. Upon walking onto the floor, they were greeted with roaring cheers from the Skyhawk faithful. After a brief speech from Dunn, the players held a dunk contest, showing off the skills that netted them a title. 

Showing off 360-degree, windmills, alley-oops, through-the-legs and assisted dunks, the crowd was enthralled with every attempt, and the honorary panel of judges showed their praises through fictitious but genuine ratings. 

Beyond the ceremony, however, the players’ processing of their championship was still catching up to them.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” senior guard Travis Vasquez said.

The reflection process was one that started “day one” after the Skyhawks 2022-23 state title loss to Peoria — a strong motivator for everyone on the team. 

“I thought we knew the day we lost that we were going to be back,” Vasquez said. “And I knew that everyone works hard. So, I knew that it was just bound to happen.”

“Especially with the guys we had, we definitely knew we had a good group,” senior center AJ Ajawin added. “We had a feeling because nobody had egos, everybody wants to work together and be a team. It’s really a family.”

En route to their eventual championship, the players kept tabs on every opponent they played — all 31 teams. Finishing with an overall record of 27-4, Dunn said it wasn’t without continuous effort that led to the players achieving their goals. 

“We’re super competitive in practice,” Dunn said. “They never got twisted, but they were ultra-competitive. They wanted to go at folks. And I sat back and watched, and I loved every second.”

Dunn’s dedication to the growth of his players stretches beyond just the title, as he was “hard on them” for more than just wins and losses on the basketball court.

He wants to cultivate positive young men in society, a message that was well received by his players. 

“I feel like I wouldn’t be the basketball player I am without coach Dunn,” senior guard Alon Johnson said. “He’s even taught me a lot that I don’t know about basketball, and even outside, and just being a man.”

“I’m really thankful because I wouldn’t be able to be where I’m at now when it comes to the opportunities I get off and on the court, and I’m just thankful for (Dunn),” Ajawin added.

With everything completed, Ajawin, Johnson, Vasquez and the rest of the team stand in company never before seen at Deer Valley High School. Their 2023-24 season has forever imprinted itself in the school and will be a memory they will hold for life.

“The reflection is like that (the state championship trophy) will always be displayed here at Deer Valley,” Dunn said, gesturing to the golden basketball trophy. “But that right there will never be taken from them. And they’ll be connected because of that for the rest of their lives. 

“(The AIA will) bring (the players) down to the (championship) stadium of 20 years, introduce them as champions. They will be connected forever.” 

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By Joe McHugh, Peoria Times Staff Writer , – Vivrr Local Results in sports of type article , 2024-03-18 07:00:00
Tags: deer valley high school, deer valley high school basketball, deer valley high school sports, deer valley high school athletics, arizona high school basketball state champions, peoria sports news

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