Girls basketball preview: Sizing up 4A, 3A and 2A teams in Northern Utah
Below is a brief look at area high school girls basketball teams in the 4A, 3A and 2A classifications and how they could stack up in their respective regions this season.
Ben Lomond went 12-11 last year and won its first playoff game since 1999. This year, the Scots have a new head coach, Aaron VanBeekum.
They return two starters: Jazlynn Tinajero (averaged 8.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game) and Dory Jenson (5.8 points, 4.2 rebounds), plus most of last year’s rotation. Sophie Peterson, another returning starter, tore her ACL in a practice scrimmage and is now out for the year.
“Being a team family is our strength, knowing whoever is on that court will battle for the others. Athleticism and defense will be strengths that also carry us throughout the season,” VanBeekum said.
Ben Lomond only had 18 players try out this season and has already had one player leave the team.
The Scots went 1-1 the first week of the season and played Juan Diego on Monday night. They have four games in the revamped Burchell Classic next month. Region 13 play starts Jan. 9 against South Summit.
The two Ben Lomond-Ogden games are scheduled for Jan. 16 at Ben Lomond and Feb. 1 at Ogden.
Ogden graduated six seniors from last year’s 11-12 team, and consequently, those seniors were six of the team’s top seven leading scorers.
Seniors Izzy Nestel and Ruth Larsen are the main returners this year along with junior guard Macy Vine and sophomore post Salote Tonga. Seniors Mariah McDonald and Tamara Jimenez, plus sophomores Taylor Duke and Megan Beus, figure to be some newcomers to watch.
“We need to gain experience ASAP and survive the bumps that come with a young team,” head coach Andy Blodgett said.
Ogden beat Juan Diego 56-38 in last week’s opener. The Tigers have two non-region tournaments, starting with the Burchell Classic from Dec. 5-9 and the Sugar-Salem Shootout in Idaho from Dec. 14-16.
Morgan is coming off its second state championship in three seasons following last year’s 70-66 win over Grantsville, but the Trojans lost a lot from that team. They graduated four of their top five leading scorers, and double-double junior post Alyvia Jaffa isn’t playing basketball this season.
That leaves Morgan’s key returners being seniors Abby Titus (2.4 points, 3.2 rebounds) and Kaydence Wardell (2.2 points, 3.8 rebounds).
“All players coming in this year have my attention. We don’t have any set starters because there’s eight to 10 girls who can earn one of the five starting spots,” head coach Sterling Mack said.
The Trojans opened their ambitious non-region schedule Monday night against defending unbeaten 4A state champion Ridgeline. Then they face defending 5A champion Bountiful, plus three more Cache Valley 4A schools, Fremont, American Fork and Skyridge before region play starts.
One has to figure Grantsville’s in the driver’s seat for Region 13. For every impactful senior the Cowboys graduated, they bring back an impactful junior. They’ve won 20 games in six of the last seven seasons, and they won 19 games the only time in that span that they didn’t hit 20.
After Grantsville, things look kind of even between the remaining five teams. Jaffa not coming back for Morgan certainly alters the Trojans’ prospects.
Ben Lomond, with a new coach, is sort of an unknown and Ogden went from having an old team to a young team, so the Tigers are somewhat unknown.
Out of area, South Summit brings back almost everyone from last year’s 3-20 team and is looked at as a team primed for a big improvement. Union, new to the region, also returns almost everyone from a 2-21 team last year.
Bear River was 7-3 going into region play last year. The problem was region play, where the Bears went 3-7 against a region that had three of the four state semifinalists and 25-0 Ridgeline, which was arguably a top-three team in the whole state.
The Bears finished 11-11, grabbing a first-round playoff win before a close quarterfinal loss. Bear River has a young team this year and will likely face an uphill climb in Region 11 again.
Bear River graduated five of their top six leading scorers, and junior Aubree Fry (3.3 points, 3.0 rebounds) is the top returning scorer. Senior guard Angelie Delgado is one of two returning starters along with Fry and is the only senior on the team, according to head coach Josie Puglsey.
The Bears open the season Tuesday against Uintah.
Layton Christian’s home for girls basketball is Region 14, a private and charter school region based mostly in Salt Lake County.
The Eagles were 13-11 last season, losing to Morgan in the state quarterfinals and Canyon View in the fifth-place bracket. They graduated their top five scorers, including an experienced point guard and shooting guard, and return zero starters.
Like most recent teams, they have a heavily international roster. Head coach Jarrod Hoagland said the team has six players from Turkey, three from Australia and one each from the United States, Chile, Japan and Brazil.
They’ve been hit with early-season injuries, however, and have an 18-point loss to Grantsville in the opener where they shot well but committed dozens of turnovers against the Cowboys.
“We do not have the height that we did last year, but we should be a much quicker team on both sides of the court,” Hoagland said.
The non-region schedule looks tough with a trip to Wasatch this week, four games in the revamped Burchell Classic, three games in an Idaho tournament and two 4A teams before region play starts.
Region 14 is a new region with LCA, Judge Memorial, Juan Diego, Providence Hall and Summit Academy. Judge is expected to be the region favorite.
St. Joseph returns three starters, all juniors, from last year’s team that went 10-12. Those three are Lizzie Randall (9.5 points, 2.3 steals), Katelyn Martinez (6.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 steals) and Mimi DeWitte (2.5 points, 7.4 rebounds).
Along with junior Cicily Flores and sophomore Eliza Berg returning off the bench, the Jayhawks have some experience heading into 2023-24.
Head coach Masen White said the team’s strength could be defense, while depth is an issue; the program is trying to make it work with limited numbers to have both varsity and JV teams. The Jayhawks open the season Nov. 28 against Intermountain Christian.
Region 17 includes St. Joseph, Rowland Hall, Waterford, Maeser Prep, APA-Draper, American Heritage and American Leadership Academy. APA-Draper appears to be the top team, but American Heritage is a potential contender, having come down to 2A from 3A.