Boys basketball preview: Sizing up 4A, 3A and 2A teams in Northern Utah
Below is a brief look at area high school boys basketball teams in the 4A, 3A and 2A classifications and how they could stack up in their respective regions.
Ben Lomond returns three starters and two bench players from a team that went 2-20 a season ago.
Senior post Jake East is the main name to watch, following a junior season in which he averaged 16.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting 54% from the floor.
Jaxon Watson (guard) and Manase Tuatagaloa (forward) return as starters, along with bench players Hunter Christensen and Levi Rentmeister. Ben Lomond also got Roy transfer Jonathan Alcaraz along with new sophomores Chris Guerrero and Deshawn Holland.
“Our team strengths this year will be depth and culture. The basketball stuff is still forming itself as we’re getting to know one another,” head coach Tanoka Beard said.
Ben Lomond hosts Tooele in its season opener on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Beard doesn’t think last year’s bad record will be a hindrance.
“The biggest hurdle we’re currently facing as a program is that we had a very down year last year,” Beard said. “Building confidence is a big part of establishing ourselves, our young people are resilient and want to see the success they’re capable of, meaning they all want to reach their full potential this year, so I don’t expect that hurdle to stay in front of us.”
Morgan split the Region 13 title with Grantsville last year with a 6-2 record. The Trojans were 17-8 overall and went to the state quarterfinals.
New head coach Scott Hunt takes over for Brad Matthews after local stints at Roy and Bear River.
Derrick Tilby and Kolton Asay are returning starters, but Tilby is the lone senior on a team otherwise filled with juniors and sophomores.
“We will need to learn on the fly and gain the experience needed to overcome adversity in close, tight games. I’m hopeful that our talent level will help offset the lack of experience,” Hunt said.
What Morgan lacks in experience, it makes up in talent, said Hunt.
“We are very athletic and should be able to be a very good defensive team,” he said. “We will put pressure on the ball and have the players that can do that. I anticipate that eventually we will be a good offensive team that will be able to shoot the ball with some consistency.”
Morgan opened the season Friday at home against Mountain Crest. The Trojans have a tough non-region schedule, particularly the first weekend of December when they face Richfield and defending state champion Manti.
With a team heavily composed of new, young players, Ogden went 8-13 overall, 4-4 in Region 13 and lost in the second round of the playoffs last year in Trent Porter’s first year as head coach.
Three starters return: point guard Stockton Marriott (10.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game), shooting guard Teegan Porter (7.4 points) and center Bingham Call (4.8 points, 2.9 rebounds).
The Tigers are excited about a 6-foot-4 wing named Jesse Jones and Trent Porter feels the team is filled with players who are “hard workers and very coachable.”
Ogden has a light non-region schedule at first, but it ramps up in mid-December and includes the San Diego Surf & Slam Tournament after Christmas.
Grantsville has a new head coach and Union enters the region this year. The outlook? Depending on who one asks, the favorite is either Morgan or South Summit, and even Ogden’s been given nods as a team to beat.
The thing everyone agrees on is there should be parity in the region.
Whiplash continues for Layton Christian Academy, whose boys basketball team is in 4A again, but this time in a region — but the region is the Utah County-centric Region 8 with Provo, Orem, Timpanogos and such.
LCA has a new head coach in former college coach Casey Stanley, following the retirement of longtime head coach Bobby Porter.
The Eagles went 18-11 last year as a 4A independent and got to the 4A state semifinals following consecutive state titles in 3A and 2A.
They return bouncy senior guard Timmie Olubisi and athletic junior guard Tyrin Jones, along with senior forward Otavio Armani.
One new addition is a 6-foot-7, 250-pound junior forward from France named Allan Gballou, who had videos of some highlight-reel dunks go viral on the internet. Gballou already has offers from Weber State and Southern Utah.
“I feel like we are talented but we are a long way from being a good basketball team,” Stanley said.
As far as Region 8 goes, it’s a mishmash of teams that were in three different 5A regions a year ago, so forecasting the region is difficult.
LCA doesn’t have any Northern Utah area teams on its schedule — it opened the season at Wasatch Academy on Friday — but the Eagles could be fun to watch for those who like fast-paced basketball. Stanley said the team’s been practicing with a 24-second shot clock and tries to shoot in the first 10-15 seconds of possessions.
Bear River went 12-11 last season, 3-7 in Region 11 and lost to Logan in the first round of the 4A playoffs. The Bears bring back their top three scorers from last year along with a host of starters and rotation players.
They’re senior-heavy, with eight on the varsity roster. Point guard Kyver Jensen, forward Gehrig Marble, guard Bridger Barfuss, guard Owen Olsen, guard Jace Roberts and forward Brayden Ritter are the main returners, according to head coach Reggie Shaw.
Mason Sorensen and Kash Avery could factor in the rotation, Shaw said. Jensen and Marble averaged double-figure scoring last year, Barfuss was close to double figures, Jensen led the team in assists and steals, while Marble led in rebounds.
“Our biggest strength this year is going to be versatility. We will have the ability to run out different lineups when needed in order to play different styles of basketball,” Shaw said.
Bear River opens its season on Nov. 28 at Bonneville.
Sky View won both the region and 4A state titles last year. The Bobcats are projected as the favorite in the region and one of the state favorites, too.
St. Joseph went 8-14 overall and 4-6 in Region 17 last year, finishing fifth in the region. Chad Loosemore finished the season as the acting head coach and was named permanent head coach in the offseason.
The Jayhawks graduated a handful of impactful seniors and return juniors Gavin Wolf and Nic Morales as part of a 12-player roster that has just one senior, according to Loosemore.
St. Joseph gave up 60 points per game last season and Loosemore hopes a team strength this year is defense.
APA-West Valley and Rowland Hall were the clear top two teams in Region 17 last year, but Loosemore thinks the region will be a tough, top-to-bottom affair.
Region 17 is mostly composed of private and charter schools along the Wasatch Front, though with one change this year as Utah Military Academy moved to Region 16, linking up in a mostly charter school region.