Christmas came early for the Bountiful Braves. Notified Thursday that his squad would likely be ranked No. 1 in Sunday's Deseret News prep basketball rankings (see page D1), Coach Mike Maxwell took the accolade in stride.

"It's a great Christmas present," he said. "It's a gift, we'll take it."However, in all fairness, Maxwell and the Braves have proven quite worthy of the honor. A 7-0 record, coupled with Alta's loss at Grand Junction, Colo., lifted Bountiful to the top spot.

"Let's put it this way, we are one of the best," Maxwell added. "But, we'll find out who's the best in March."

IN AND OUT: Teams which entered and departed the Deseret News prep basketball rankings this week.

BOYS - Pleasant Grove (4th: 4A), Richfield (5th: 3A), Union (4th: 3A) and Intermountain Christian (5th: 1A) replace Ogden , Dixie , Uintah and Duchesne .

GIRLS - Fremont (4th: 5A), Hillcrest (5th: 5A), Pleasant Grove (5th: 4A), Millard (5th: 2A) and Intermountain Christian (5th: 1A) replace West Jordan , Skyline , Ogden , Monticello and Duchesne .

RACE THE NATION: Three Utah teams were included in Harrier magazine's final Foot Locker Super 25 national high school cross country rankings. Mountain View and Bingham were ranked third and fourth in the boys, while Mountain View was fifth in girls.

MORE NATIONAL ATTENTION: USA Today lists Timpview's boys (10th) and Bingham's girls (7th) in their latest West regional basketball rankings. No Utah teams were included in the national Top 25.

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TEXAS TOUCHDOWN: Remember the gridders from John Tyler High School in Texas? You know, the guys who needed a kickoff return at the horn to avoid blowing a 41-17 lead in the final three minutes of a playoff game against Plano East a few weeks ago? The would-be choke artists have rebounded nicely - capping a perfect 16-0 season with the Texas state 5A championship and a No. 4 national ranking.. John Tyler defeated Westlake of Austin 35-24 before 27,000 fans in the Houston Astrodome last week to give the school its first crown since some guy named Earl Campbell led Tyler to the title in 1973.

HIGHER LEVEL: Sandy resident Kristi Logan, now playing with Sterling College in Kansas, was recently named Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

STALKING HAWKS: Both the boys and girls basketball teams from Alta High will compete in the annual Optimist Holiday Classic in Nebraska, Dec. 28-30. The boys, ranked second in the latest DesNews listings, are the defending tournament champions, while the girls are making their inaugural visit.

CATCH THE BEAT: As per usual, Brad Steinke will unveil the weekly Deseret News prep basketball rankings on KSL-TV's SportsBeat Saturday at 10:35 p.m.

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