Balanced scoring allows Lone Peak to coast past Syracuse
OREM — At the end of the Lone Peak victory over Syracuse Monday night at UVU, one aspect of the Knights play stood out above all others — balance.
The Knights racked up an impressive 81 points against the Titans, though perhaps what was more impressive than the total of points was how Lone Peak got them.
Chantry Ross led the way for his top-seeded team with 17 points, but he was one of five players to reach double figures. Nathan Harkness and Max Brenchley each scored 13 points in the victory, while Steven Ashworth added 11.
In addition to those five, five more Knights found their way into the scoring column on the evening, including Jackson Brinkerhoff, Jaxon Pollard, Taylor Madson, Malachi Mills and Dyson Frank.
Incredibly, with all the different contributors, Lone Peak shot 52.4 percent from the field, as well as 34.8 percent from behind the arc, and 70 percent from the charity stripe.
The first round victory mirrored a season-long trend for the Knights. On the season, Lone Peak had four players average double figures in scoring, with two more averaging over five points a game.
“We executed well tonight,” Lone Peak coach David Evans said. “It was a good start to the tournament.”
If the Knights can maintain such a balanced attack, not to mention if they can continue to assist on so many baskets (Lone Peak had 22 assists on 33 made shots, with Steven Ashworth dishing out 11 dimes on his own), then Lone Peak should continue to roll.
— Trent Wood
New stars have emerged for Bingham
OREM — Take standouts such as Yoeli Childs and Samuta Avea away, and most teams could be in a lot of trouble. Take those same two away from Bingham this year, however, and it simply forms into another team capable of winning it all.
The Miners’ best two players on last year’s state championship team wasn't a secret. Childs dominated the post while Avea used his unique skill set to give opposing teams fits.
Childs now starts for BYU while Avea moved back to Hawaii, and yet Bingham finds itself in great shape for another potential championship, after taking a convincing 66-41 win over Northridge in the first round of the state playoffs on Monday while holding a No. 1 seed.
The key is returning a lot of players who patiently awaited their turn to lead.
“Obviously Yoeli and Samuta were great, and they did what they wanted to do here — to win a state championship. But (this year’s players) have just stepped up,” said Bingham coach Jake Schroeder.
While none of Bingham’s existing players are obvious college-bound talents, like Childs and Avea were, the whole has formed into a very productive unit.
“Brayden Cosper has done a great job. Dax Milne, Preston Fowlkes and Tanner Davis — he’s one of our better players who didn’t play tonight. He’s home under the weather,” Schroeder said. “Guys have just stepped up. This group is the guys that came in when I got here and they just have a ton of pride. They just find a way to get things done.”
Most of the players also played key roles on last year’s team, and are applying that experience into this year’s play.
“I think it’s big that we have a lot of experience, and it lets us know that the things we did last year, we have to do those same things this year and we’ll be alright,” said senior guard Lleyton Parker.
— Brandon Gurney
Jordan's Wakley plays tough in first round win
OREM — Jordan quarterback Crew Wakley used a reckless approach to torch teams on the gridiron this past season. Turns out he uses much of that same approach on the hardwood.
The junior’s aggressive and fearless play was key for Jordan, during its 66-55 win over Fremont in the first round of the 5A state playoffs. Wakley finished with 15 points and five steals, saving his best play for the second half when Jordan took back the lead before cruising to a win.
“He’s a warrior, and he is what he is,” said Jordan coach Trace Bevell. “His skills aren’t there, basketball-wise, but he’s just like he is in football. He’ll run right through you. He’s the toughest guy I got.”
As for Wakley, he doesn’t know another way to play, regardless of the sport.
“I just believe that whatever you play, you play hard. You give it all you got,” Wakley said.
Wakley began playing for the basketball as a sophomore, to keep in shape, primarily. This season he’s risen to become a big contributor, using his aggressive play to often jump-start his team, much like he did during Monday’s win.
“I just try and be a leader and there’s no reason to fear anything out there,” Wakley said. “We’re all kids who wake up in the morning, eat our cereal and then go out there to do the best we can.”
— Brandon Gurney
Copper Hills shuts down Weber’s top scorer
SALT LAKE CITY — One of the primary focuses for Copper Hills in its 5A opener against Weber was making things difficult on Weber guard Connor Shaw — the fourth-leading scorer in 5A this year at 18.0 ppg.
Coach Andrew Blanchard knew that if Shaw got into a groove, that could trickle down to everyone else on the team.
“We played really hard defense. We made their shooters earn everything they got, and we made Shaw really work, and that was our goal. He’s a tremendous player. To stay in front of him is difficult, that’s something that we really worked on to stay in front,” said Blanchard.
Shaw led Weber in scoring with 11 points, but he only made 4 of 12 shots from the field.
Defense has been one of Copper Hills’ strengths all year, and Blanchard said it’s a byproduct of the style of play in Region 3.
“A lot of teams in other regions don’t see the kind of defense that Region 3 does,” he said.
Region 3 teams swept Region 1 teams on in 5A’s first round by average score of 63.8 to 50.0.
At the end of the regular season, three of the top six scoring defenses in 5A were from Region 3 — Bingham (second), Copper Hills (third) and West Jordan (sixth). The fourth playoff team, Jordan, ranked 11th.
— James Edward
Layton's Brown bounces back with big opening round game
SALT LAKE CITY — As Layton handily defeated Lehi in the first round of the 5A boys basketball state tournament, one player stood out above the rest in the Lancers’ Truman Brown.
The junior guard racked up 23 points on the night, including 16 in the first half. Brown went 4 of 8 from beyond the arc and was a catalyst in some of the Lancers’ key runs, most significantly its run to start the second quarter.
With his team up 16-13, Brown hit a quick 3-pointer followed by a two. After a basket by Lehi, he hit another 2-pointer to give his team the 24-15 lead. From there it was never really the same as the Lancers cruised to the win.
“It got the momentum shifted towards us, and we just kind of pulled away from there,” Brown said.
For Brown, the game was a nice chance to rebound from the Lancers’ final region game of the season in which he didn’t score a single point.
“I didn’t score at Hunter, and I’ve just been getting up a bunch of shots (in practice) and they fell this game,” Brown said. “I didn’t really need to score because we got the win as a team, but it was good to bounce back like that. It felt good.”
Arguably the highlight of the game came at the third quarter buzzer when Brown banked in a 3-pointer. The shot, which he admitted involved a bit of luck, summed up his night pretty well as the shots were just falling for him.
“I think it comes down to confidence and him knowing that he is a good shooter,” Layton head coach Kelby Miller said. “He is the type of kid that he can get it going like that for us.”
— Andrew Sorensen
Masked man Josh Mordue leads Viewmont to first round win
OREM — For the casual fan watching Viewmont battle Westlake Monday night at UVU, it would have been hard not to notice Viewmont junior guard Josh Mordue.
After all, Mordue was the only player on the floor wearing a face mask.
“He has been Rip Hamilton all year,” Morude’s teammate Lewis Johnson joked, referencing the former Detroit Pistons shooting guard who, in recent news, just had his jersey retired by the organization.
The mask, while unfamiliar to most, has become just another part of Mordue’s life.
“I’ve gotten so used to it I don’t even notice it anymore,” said Mordue.
Worn for safety reasons, the guard has sported mask all season, and it came up big Monday night.
“I got hit in the face tonight, right here,” Mordue said, gesturing to the bridge of his nose.
“I think I am going to keep wearing it, for safety reasons.”
The mask hasn’t affected Mordue’s play much, if at all. Mordue spent the season as Viewmont’s second leading scorer, averaging 10.6 points per game, and he finished Monday night's game with 12 points, while making three of four shots from the field and going a perfect three-for-three from the free throw line.
Unlike many athletes, Mordue doesn’t believe he is at all superstitious about his mask, though Johnson was quick to disagree.
“He kinda is, though,” said Johnson. “If he is splashing in practice, he will tell us he can’t take it off.”
For the Vikings' tournament hopes, perhaps Mordue should hope for a little mask magic, a la Hamilton.
— Trent Wood
Confident West Jordan wasn’t intimidated by Sky View
SALT LAKE CITY — West Jordan might’ve been listed as a No. 4 seed on the bracket, but it certainly didn’t arrive at the Huntsman Center on Monday with an underdog mentality.
“Our mentality was we believe we were coming up her to win, and we weren’t looking at it like an upset,” said West Jordan coach Scott Briggs, whose team beat Region 1 champion Sky View 69-63 in the opening round.
West Jordan was a No. 4 seed in last year’s playoffs, and played like it in a 54-38 loss to Layton.
Briggs said he tried to instill a belief in his players heading into that game, but they didn’t have much experience or success in the regular season to draw upon.
Many of those kids were back this year, and that experience made a huge difference in the win over Sky View.
“We have a bunch of these kids who played last year, so I don’t think they were nervous about the moment, and I truly don’t think they came up her hoping to win, I think deep down they believed they were going to do it.,” said Briggs.
A big reason for that confidence was West Jordan’s regular season success against two of the top teams in 5A — Bingham and Copper Hills.
Even though it went 0-4 in region play against those two teams, the games were close. It lost to Copper Hills in overtime 63-56 on Jan. 13, and then on Feb. 10 it narrowly lost to Bingham 49-47.
Reflecting on that loss to Bingham, Briggs said his team played really well except the last couple of minutes. He believes that overall performance catapulted his team to a pair of wins to end the regular season, and then the win over Sky View.
“Most of our games have been close, so we didn’t really feel like we’re on underdog. We’ve just lost some close ones,” said West Jordan’s Darrian Nebeker.
— James Edward
Matthew Van Komen's double-double heads Pleasant Grove
SALT LAKE CITY — Pleasant Grove center Matthew Van Komen is just a sophomore, which must be a terrifying prospect for not only Region 4, but also all of 5A.
Van Komen was rarely a factor as a freshman but is now making a big difference every time he steps on the court and shows signs that the improvements will only continue.
In the 2015-2016 season, Van Komen averaged just 1.96 points and 1.43 rebounds per game, often not making much of a difference in games. This year, though, he has improved his points per game average by a full 12 points and is averaging just over eight boards per game.
“He has really grown in his ability to make the right play at the right time, and his defense has been a key to our success all year. We are where we are defensively because of Matt,” Pleasant Grove head coach Randy McAllister said.
The 7-foot-4 big man for the Vikings showed that throughout Monday’s first round playoff win over Davis as he had three blocks and affected many more shots along the way.
According to McAllister, one play late in the game particularly highlighted his mental growth as the Vikings were trying to run the clock and get the win.
The center, who ended with 12 points and 12 rebounds against Davis, found himself with the ball and an open lane to the basket from about 15 feet away. However, as the crowd irked him to shoot or drive the ball, he intelligently passed the ball back to a guard to keep the clock moving.
“Tonight he got that ball at the end of the game, and he just stopped and relaxed and everyone was yelling ‘shoot it’ because he was open, but he threw it right back out and made the smart play.”
— Andrew Sorensen