The 2002-03 prep basketball season is in the books and two Utah County teams brought home the top hardware — the Timpview Thunderbirds won the 4A boys crown and the Mountain View Bruins again won the 4A girls title.
Fans, players and coaches are already looking forward to next year, mainly because so many key players will be returning for the valley's top teams. If this season had the results you wanted, or not the ones you hoped for, you might want to start preparing yourself for more of the same next year.
Starting at the top, Timpview's boys team will have its two stars back and most of its key bench players. Clearly, the T-Birds will be the odds-on favorite to repeat as state champions with guard Matt Pinegar and center Chris Miles back for one more season. Bench players Taylor Jackson, Andrew Low and Matt Mortensen played critical minutes in the state tournament and will suit up next season.
Provo, another Utah County power, will have big forward Tai Wesley returning. Without his brother to share the spotlight, Wesley will carry much more of the Bulldogs' load and should be one of the state's top players.
American Fork should stage another strong campaign with three main players back for two more seasons — sophomores Rick Shoff, Brennan Davis and Clayton Searle.
Perhaps the most exciting player to watch next year might be Payson guard Tyler Newbold. This year, as a sophomore, he hit five three-pointers in the state quarterfinals game. But with his jumping ability, he might be dunking that many times a game for the next two seasons.
Timpanogos won the Region 7 crown behind guard Mac Nelson, who might have been the best player in the valley this season with his ability to shoot and create his own shot. Mac will be back, and so is sophomore sharpshooter Shawn Yeates.
Pleasant Grove ignited the school and town by qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in several years behind three juniors, Landon Hallman, Chad Evans and Nate Clement. Two teams that are losing most of their top talent are Orem and Lone Peak. The Knights do, however, have big man Brandon Knight returning.
Lehi was one of 3A's top teams all season. Expect the Pioneers to do the same next year with scoring guard Drew Robinson back, and big men Brett Allred and Ben Walker also being underclassmen.
Mountain View should continue to dominate girls hoops in Utah. The Bruins only lose Heather and Hollie Hansen from their nucleus. With them gone, Mallary Gillespie could score more than 20 points per game if she wants.
Orem challenged the Bruins in the finals and the Tigers will be strong again with starters Heather Keith, Aubrey Stay, Devrie Downey and Marsha Heimuli all with eligibility remaining.
Timpview will likely rule Region 6 again. Twin stars Stephanie and Sarah Red were juniors this year, as was Rebecca Wilson. Also, starter Lindsey Freeze and quick guard Jessica Harmon have two seasons left.
Payson has all of its stars back for a couple more seasons. Sandy Marvin is only a sophomore and Aubrey Orton a freshman.
But Lehi has claim to the valley's best young girls player in freshman Michelle Harrison. With three more seasons of her, the Pioneers will be good for several years.