Here We Go Again

Cairo Smyth

On January 20, number 6 ranked Brophy College Prep (6A) upset number 1 ranked Perry (6A) 65-52 in a classic boys basketball game.
Obviously an upset of any top seed is going to have ripple effects in rankings, but this particular upset opened a major opportunity for not just Brophy but also for Sunnyslope.
The Viking’s bitter enemy just may have inadvertently paused the rivalry and extended a helping hand.
A hand that could help Sunnyslope become the top dog in Arizona for basketball.
After a heartbreaking end to the 2023 season Sunnyslope boys basketball team is looking to maintain dominance and finish the year with a ring on their fingers.
“Everyone on the team has the same mentality of wanting to get better,” said Senior Beau Hartman, “I think it’ll help us in the end, especially from where we started to where we are now and we are in good shape to win games.”
Always wanting to get better is a common trait of underdogs, but given the Vikings’ recent success, having this mentality is unique and only part of a fascinating culture.
Hartman said the basketball culture is very professional and military-esque, so “don’t be late, be a gentleman, and work your butt off no matter what” or where you are.
This rare attitude towards basketball at the high school level may have been the reason that top Arizona talents, like Freshmen Delton Prescott (former C/O 2027 #1 player) and Darius Wabbington chose to attend Sunnyslope.
“I decided to go to Slope because I already knew most of the players and I knew the coach,” said Prescott.
It would be discourteous to say that the presence of the 2 freshmen isn’t a big reason for improvement on the team as the talent they bring is invaluable.
Senior Charlie Richards said that the team is better this year due partly to the duo and that “they have added a lot to our team offensively.”
Success at the level led by Portela that has been seen at Sunnyslope is certainly an appealing attraction for middle school athletes as well.
“The coaching is definitely one of the important things that I looked for and I’m sure my teammates did as well,” said Prescott, “The vibe is just great from the coaches and players here.”
Regardless of who decides to play at Sunnyslope, it is doubtless that by the end of their tenure as a Viking they will have grown as a basketball player and a person.
“Coach Portela pushes us to be the best version of ourselves we can be,” said Richards, “He strives to ensure we take care of business in practice and have the necessary tools to be a top team.”
This culture differentiates Sunnyslope basketball from all other schools and credit is due to a string of excellent coaches with Head Coach Ray Portela and Former Head Coach Dan Mannix.
“Even before Portela was a coach, Coach Mannix and the other assistants is where it came from,” said Hartman, “It’s been a culture for 50 years since Mannix has been a year.”
Those 50 years have now culminated in Sunnyslope being ranked number 2 in 6A; coming off a championship loss, but looking to return to the big game with revenge on their minds.
“The team’s goals have become more focused on winning each game one at a time instead of the big picture of winning state,” said Richards.
Getting back to the championship isn’t going to be an easy road, but the team has been battle tested this year already beating the defending champion Perry High School along with several other top schools in Arizona and California.
“Every game is a test for the playoffs and to get ready for that,” said Hartman.
Sunnyslope currently holds a 10-2 record and are on a win streak 10 games long driven by the players motivation to return to the championship; especially after a close call last year.
Hartman said the team is “100%” using the loss as motivation and that there were tears in the locker room from both freshmen and seniors alike.
However, 2024 is a new year for the Vikings and the team has talent that matches any previous team with Hartman, Wabbington, Prescott, Sophomore Rider Portela, Sophomore John Mattingly all holding college offers and Senior Jai Anthony-Bearden committed to Division-1 Ball State University.
With 6 region games left to go, the Vikings will fight to finish 16-2 and will surely wind up as a top seed – possibly the top seed thanks to Brophy – as they look to bring one more trophy back to Sunnyslope.

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