High school boys basketball: Juan Diego rolls past Tooele, clinches seventh straight region title
Juan Diego rolled past Tooele 70-52 to clinch a seventh straight region championship despite two games remaining in Region 10 play.
Juan Diego coach Drew Trost has no idea if this will be the year his program ends years of playoff frustration by winning the big one. But what he does know, however, is his team has the versatility and pieces necessary to win on the big stage.
Those assets flourished on Friday night as Juan Diego rolled past Tooele 70-52 to clinch a seventh straight region championship despite two games remaining in Region 10 play.
“To win anything seven years in a row is really tough. People are definitely gunning for us, and so we get a lot of peoples best shot it feels like every night,” said Trost. “The five seniors, they’ve been together three, four years. They play well together, they play hard, for the most part they keep their composure. And they’ve worked hard. They really do spend a lot of time in the gym.”
Senior Talon Valdes has been the catalyst all season, and he was again on Friday scoring 25 points, most at the rim as his countless hours of finishing in practice have clearly paid off.
The piece that may ultimately give Juan Diego its best chance against the 4A elite is freshman 6-foot-8 center Malick Diallo, an international student from Mali.
A year ago when Juan Diego lost to Dixie in the 4A semifinals, Trost acknowledged that his team had no answer for Dixie’s 6-foot-10 center. The top contenders in 4A have size again, and Juan Diego is one of them.
“I like this year we can kind of match their size. I think that gives us a lot better chance,” said Trost.
“The five seniors, they’ve been together three, four years. They play well together, they play hard, for the most part they keep their composure. And they’ve worked hard. They really do spend a lot of time in the gym.” — Juan Diego head coach Drew Trost
Diallo added 15 points for Juan Diego, with Matt Rohden chipping in with 12 and David Kinneberg adding 11.
Diallo has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and Trost says his freshman has impeccable timing when it comes to blocking shots, which he did numerous times on Friday protecting the rim.
Tooele eventually stopped trying to attack the paint.
Leading 28-19 at the half, Juan Diego pushed the lead to 46-24 with three minutes left in the third quarter following a dizzying 18-2 run.
Many of those buckets came in transition, either courtesy of quick rebounds and outlet passes by Diallo or steals along the perimeter.
“He’s really been great for us. We have David (Kinneberg) and Matt (Rohden) who are both 6’5, and to be able to play them more on the perimeter is huge because they’re pretty skilled kids. Last year we always had one of those guys inside,” said Trost.
With the outcome clearly in hand and the paint no man’s land, Tooele unleashed 3-pointers most of the rest of the game and was red hot behind the arc burying eight 3s over the final 11 points.
Justin Rogers and Ethan Rogers each knocked down four 3-pointers, with senior Justin Rogers finishing with a game-high 27 points and freshman Ethan Rogers adding 14 points.
Tooele came into the game confident at trying to delay Juan Diego’s net-cutting ceremony after only losing 50-47 in the first region meeting last month.
Things were looking good only down 11-10 after the first quarter, but Juan Diego cut down on the turnovers in the second quarter and started to build a cushion.
“We just saw it was too close of a game, it shouldn’t have been that close, and we turned it up,” said Valdes.
Juan Diego stretched the lead to 28-19 by halftime and coasted from there to clinch another region title.
“It feels amazing, but at the end of the day, it’s a goal, but it’s not a top goal. We’re not done yet,” said Valdes.