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BEAVER GETS THE NOD AS TEAM TO BEAT

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Beaver appreciates its top ranking about as much as folks appreciate bunny slippers or fish ties on Christmas.

"It's nice, I guess, to be No. 1," said Beaver coach Calvin Albrecht. "But we don't necessarily put a lot of stock in it."Tabbed by state coaches as the 2A frontunner, the Beavers (6-0 overall) have yet to disappoint - having held the top ranking since the season began more than four weeks ago.

"Right now, we're playing some pretty good basketball," said Albrecht. "But, it's at the end when it all counts anyway."

Led by Region 13 MVP and two-time all-state honoree Kevin Brown, a 6-foot-5 senior center, the Beavers sport plenty of experience - despite losing three starters from last year's league championship team.

Senior Jeff Martin and junior Justin Bradshaw anchor the Beaver attack at forward and guard respectively, while five other players see significant action in Beaver's primary rotation.

Albrecht likely hopes eight is enough to fend off Kanab and North Sevier for league honors prior to facing the likes of Manti in state play.

"I think this year, especially in our region, from top to bottom is as tough as its ever been," he said. "I think there are seven or eight teams that could win it. I really do."

Monticello is the defending state champion, but the Buckaroos lost key players to graduation.

Region 12

Fifteen years have passed since one of these leaguemates have brought home the gold trophy. However, Morgan did reach the state finals last year with Manti finishing fourth.

Speaking of the Templars, football star Alan Cox and company are capable of ending the drought. Millard may also have enough firepower to do some damage at state. And don't forget about Grantsville and Morgan.

Meanwhile, Gunnison, Juab, South Summit and North Summit will likely compete for second tier leadership.

COACHES STRAW POLL (projected finish with current record): 1. Manti (8-2), 2. Millard (4-4), 3. Morgan (4-4), 4. Grantsville (6-2), 5. Gunnison (1-6), 6. Juab (4-6), 7. South Summit (5-4), 8. North Summit (5-4).

Region 13

Beaver is favored to lead the pack once again, but North Sevier has made rumblings -- having won at Kanab. The Cowboys round out the likely top three, but San Juan, state titlist Monticello, South Sevier and Parowan could crack the league elite.

COACHES STRAW POLL (projected finish with current record): 1. Beaver (6-0), 2. Kanab (3-2), 3. North Sevier (5-0), 4. San Juan (2-2), 5. Monticello (0-5), 6. South Sevier (4-2), 7. Parowan (4-3), 8. Grand (3-2).