The 2021 season has been years in the making for the Desert Edge Scorpions boys basketball team.
Coming off a 20-6 season in 2019 led by a talented senior class, the Scorpions are off to a fast start, winning the first two games of the season before showdowns this week with Deer Valley and Peoria.
“Our 2021 class is probably the best class that Desert Edge has had so far. It just means a lot to grow with the guys and see how good we’ve gotten,” senior forward Shay Cain said.
But, despite what the record from last year shows, getting to this point was never a given.
That final campaign for the many seniors was in doubt mere days ago, however. The Arizona Interscholastic Executive Board temporarily canceled the winter sports season. A group that had played together for years would end without its curtain call.
When several days later the AIA board changed its decision, the Scorpions rejoiced. They were back on the court with a chance to end their high school careers their way, savoring every dribble.
“It forces you to make sure that you’re not taking any of this for granted, because we saw it could all be taken away,” said senior wing Jake Clapper.
When Scott Lovely took over as coach in 2015, he inherited a team that had not posted a winning record since 2012-13. Most of the current players were in elementary school.
His Scorpions won just three games in his initial season, then merely seven the next year. But he could see a future and winning culture behind a class of 2021 that, to that point, had yet to even roam the school’s halls.
“The program had a lot of talent that left the school; they weren’t coming to Desert Edge,” Lovely said. “So the seventh-grade group was the group that has talent; that’s the group that should be coming to Desert Edge. Let’s focus on those guys and get those guys here.”
The staff accomplished that goal. Then came development and confidence building. That took time, too.
“They took their lumps, but throughout those years I told them to not worry about the score, not worry about wins and losses. Worry about the things you’re doing and growing. Sophomore year they started to turn it around,” Lovely said.
Now, after several years of sculpting, the Scorpions have their most talented roster in recent memory, looking to capitalize with another winning record and postseason run.
Desert Edge will utilize its chemistry to move the ball among its plentiful scorers and trust each other to switch and play aggressive on the defensive end.
And, even though the AIA’s new rules mandate masks be worn at all times, potentially limiting breath, the Scorpions will play fast and attempt to get out on breaks.
“It’s hard for us to breathe, but that’s not going to stop us from getting up and down the court. We’re always going to be that team,” said senior guard Amarei Hunter.
The experiment of trusting these once-young players with the keys to Desert Edge has already proven the correct choice. Now, after years of losses and a culture changed, these senior Scorpions have one more chance to chase glory.
“It feels good, especially winning with your brothers. Just kind of upbringing compared to our first couple seasons. We were kind of struggling compared to how these last two kind of turned out. I’m excited,” said senior guard Adrian Banuelos.