The Glendale Prep Academy boys’ basketball team is in the midst of the best season most of its top players can recall.
Through 12 regular season 2A games, the Griffins boasted an undefeated record, and each victory had come by double-digit margins. Even a game that coach Steve Silvernail described as “weird” – a rare Saturday-afternoon game on Jan. 25 in which the referees called nearly double the personal fouls in the first half as they did in the second for both sides – resulted in a 65-50 victory over Northland Prep.
But, the Griffins are not taking their recent success for granted. Glendale Prep, as Silvernail entered his first season, went just 12-15 in the 2018-19 season, according to MaxPreps and missed the playoffs. A youthful roster, with nearly all its starters and important role players just juniors or younger, had to find its footing under a new system.
“We had the coaching change. We started laying the foundations of what we wanted to do. Last year was kind of the prep year, and now we’re in full steam and trying to kind of go all-out and fight for that state championship,” said senior Matt Hawkins.
The identity the Griffins were searching for on the court, ironically, is that each of the players have nearly identical roles on the floor. With a roster that can, unlike most teams, go 12-players deep with talent, each Griffin is tasked with running the floor quickly and trying to tire the opponent out.
Most of the players in the starting lineup are close in size and skill. The majority of them, even the post players, are trustworthy dribbling the ball, and can defend a variety of positions, depending on the lineup in the game and that moment’s particular strategy.
“Everyone’s interchangeable, so anyone can guard a big man, anyone can guard a guard. So it’s helpful we can take that fast tempo,” said Hawkins.
“It helps us play faster against bigger teams, so that we can kind of run by them and get out in transition,” added junior Gavin Aikins.
Its strategy and winning mindset has not only led Glendale Prep to playing well in conference play, either. Silvernail scheduled the Griffins to play in two high-level tournaments this season filled with teams that compete in 4A and 5A ball, and many of the schools had double or even triple the amount of students.
The Griffins pulled off surprising upsets of 4A opponents Saguaro and Greenway in a December tournament, reaching the semifinals, and were mere points away from Moon Valley in the third-place game.
But, even the heavy losses teach the team a significant lesson.
“We have talked about it a lot, we think of ourselves as not just a 2A team, but a team that can play with anybody. But, you don’t know how to do that until you actually go out and are on the court with those bigger schools. So even if we lose, we learn a lot from it, and we take that into the rest of the season,” Silvernail said.
There are mere weeks left before the playoffs, and the Griffins believe they are hitting their stride. With wins and close games against high-level opponents, and a winning streak in-tact in 2A ball, they hope the success results in a deep playoff run.
“We’re ready to play with anyone,” Aikins said.