SALT LAKE CITY — It's not the ending Copper Hills wanted, but players and coaches hope Saturday's disappointing 61-44 loss to Bingham in the 5A state championship game can be the start of something great.
Copper Hills hasn't been noted as one of the top boys basketball programs until about three years ago when coach Andrew Blanchard's program started making noise. The latest wave took the team to the state championship game, something the program can hang its hat on while holding heads high.
“The record we have and the teams we’ve beaten this year — we’ve really been tough and we’ve been resilient all season,” Blanchard said after Saturday's disappointing loss. “It’s really too bad we couldn’t have finished it.”
Bingham, in the end, proved too athletic and too overwhelming over the course of 32 minutes, much as it proved to every other team during the tournament and most of the season.
“They just had these stretches where it’s hard to keep it in front of you,” Blanchard said of the Miners. “It puts a lot of pressure on you defensively. They’re just really well-coached, they’re disciplined and they’re really good athletes.”
Copper Hills isn't short of athletes itself and were led by great efforts from senior guards Preston Sanchez and Charlie Olsen during Saturday's loss and throughout the season. Other big contributors included forward Stockton Shorts and center Porter Hawkins.
The goal will now be to move on, despite the loss of several quality seniors, in hopes of returning to the championship game sooner rather than later.
"There's no question we can use this as a foundation," Blanchard said. "We can have guys learn from (this team) and we're excited for the future."
Bingham's unbeatable mentality: Bingham coach Jake Schroeder admitted after every round of the 5A state tournament to being extremely nervous beforehand. The Miner coach met every challenge, even while losing some sleep, as he considered each and every potential hiccup from his team.
As for Schroeder's players, however, the mentality was somewhat different.
“The thing about these guys, and it drives me nuts sometimes, is they honestly believe they can’t be beat," Schroeder said. "It doesn’t matter (if we’re) up 10 or down 10, they think they’re going to win no matter what and that’s a good thing to have.”
“Coach stresses out a bit and is always nervous, but we definitely have a little swagger this year,” added tournament MVP Schyler Shoemaker. “We’re just confident that if we do what we do then we can beat anybody.”
For Shoemaker and his teammates, that team confidence validated itself as the Miners rolled through the 5A tourney, winning each game by an average of 24.5 points.