St. Mary's (Phoenix)
girls basketball coach Curtis Ekmark was grateful to receive the 2011-12 MaxPreps Girls Basketball Coach of the Year award
. He was even more so to win MaxPreps' highest coaching honor - the overall 2011-12 Girls Coach of the Year.
But as quickly as he could express gratitude, he passed off the credit and adulation.
"This is a group award," he said. "Any type of award I win I owe it all to the girls. They put in all the work and sacrifice."
fitting that Ekmark would share the honor because that is exactly how
his team played and why the Knights went 30-0, won a mythical national
championship and captured a
second-straight Division I Arizona state crown
Knights, vastly talented but equally cohesive, almost doubled their
opponents' output for an entire season and took over the top spot in the
MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Girls Basketball Rankings
after winning the nation's top tournament – the Nike TOC in Phoenix – in late December.
won those four TOC games against top-tier national teams by 29, 23, 8
and 10 points. Then they knocked off an Australian national champion
team by 17 and, in perhaps their most impressive victory, defeated
California's top-ranked team at the time, Windward, by 14. National Boys Coach of the Year: Dick Katte
did it all unselfishly, utilizing Ekmark's unique coaching blend
learned from his college coaches Rick Majerus and Bob Dukiet and his
coaching idol, the legendary John Wooden.
His team – four of
whom have played for him since winning an AAU 9-and-under national
championship tournament – knows Wooden's Pyramid of Success by heart and
most were more than eager to share their own "thought of the day,"
another tool created by Wooden and implemented by Ekmark.
the state and national titles were extremely nice and deserving of the
girls," he said. "But I was just more proud of them for who they are as
young women, how they treated each other and the game and their
And their opponents could really sit back and admire.
(Chandler) coach Jeff Kain, whose team lost 65-40 in the state finals
to St. Mary's, thinks his squad didn't play poorly at all, yet still got
"They can beat you in so many ways," Kain said
after the state finals loss. "They have great outside shooting. They can
pound it inside. They play great defense and create offense with
turnovers. At this level, they're pretty flawless."
Best of all,
Ekmark said, they played unselfishly and smartly. Besides being stellar
basketball players, Ekmark was blessed with having the school's top
student in the classes of 2012, 2013 and 2014.
"Any one of eight
girls on any other high school team would be launching up a ton of
shots and have big-time stats," Ekmark said. "But these girls chose to
be a part of something very special."
Of the 12 players, only two were seniors, including senior Shilpa Tummala
, who will play at Harvard next fall. She scored 17 in the title game.
Among the returners are the Williams twins, Danielle Williams
and Dominique Williams
, a pair of 5-foot-9 guards, 6-2 forward Chantel Osahor
and Courtney Ekmark
, a 6-foot guard and the coach's daughter who scored 28 in the state title game. Courtney, an incoming junior, has already secured a scholarship to the University of Connecticut
St. Mary's will enter with a 40-game win streak, and the team is built for the long run
girls are getting antsy to get back on the court," coach Ekmark said
way back in April. "Frankly, I can't wait