Four Region 5 boys basketball teams made the state playoffs last year and played their first-round games at the Dee Events Center, where they all proceeded to slip on a banana peel.
Top-seeded Bountiful lost by 11, No. 2 Farmington lost by 14, Viewmont lost by 12 and Woods Cross lost by 20. Just like that, Davis County schools were knocked out of a tournament they usually have a shot at winning.
But even if the seeding system for the state playoffs this year was the same, having No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3 first-round matchups, there’d still be confidence that Region 5 could make a splash this season.
“Our region’s really deep, it might be the deepest of all the 5A regions,” Farmington coach Kasey Walkenhurst said. “Woods Cross is absolutely loaded with talent, they’re just big strong kids, obviously Bountiful’s got their kids with (Rob) Whaley and the Bennett twins, and (Camron) Chism can shoot the heck out of of the ball.”
Bountiful, the defending region champion, returns leading scorer Chism (16.9 points, 2.6 steals, 2.5 assists per game) and starting post player Whaley (15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks per game and shot 56% from the floor) among a deep group of returners.
WX brings back a balanced group, ostensibly led by forward Tyler Roberts (13.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 65% shooting). The Wildcats last year sat pretty at 9-2 heading into region play, where they started 3-1 before ultimately ending 5-5 in Region 5 and 14-8 overall.
For Farmington, the biggest change is that the Phoenix is coming into the season running instead of crawling. That’s what having a second year in the same system does.
McKay Thomsen (9 points, 4 rebounds per game, 44% shooting), Max Walton (4.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and Josh Wade — his older brother is BYU basketball player and Davis alumnus Jesse Wade — are three key returners.
One newcomer to watch is a sophomore named Collin Chandler, who Walkenhurst calls a dynamic playmaker.
“If our team’s going anywhere this year, we have to learn that defense is important. We can score with anybody, but we sometimes want to not guard anybody at the same time,” Walkenhurst said.
Bonneville lost a lot of size from last year’s team that came a few inches away from a 4A state championship game appearance. To make matters tougher, one the Lakers’ taller players, Tyler Hancock, is dealing with a foot injury suffered during football season.
“We’re not gonna be very big, this is one of the smaller teams that we’ve had. I think it has a chance to be one of, if not the toughest, teams I’ve had ... I’m really excited about what we’ve got,” Bonneville head coach Kyle Bullinger said.
Three-year starter Luke Dixon returns for the Lakers, as does guard Jordan Citte, who sunk a buzzer-beater to beat Logan at home in last year’s playoffs. One thing that might help Bonneville as it moves up from 4A to 5A is the deep playoff run it had last year, when several younger players got important playing time.
“Coming off the run like we did and having sophomores playing big minutes, whether you’re 6A or 5A or 4A, when you get that far, every team’s pretty good at that point,” Bullinger said. He added the team needs players to step into non-flashy roles, such as being the best rebounder, best help-side defender, etc.
One interesting quirk on Box Elder’s schedule is a two-game trip across the country to Atlanta in mid-December to face two private schools called Mount Vernon and Holy Innocents Episcopal. The Bees’ leading scorer last year was Parker Buchanan (18.2 points 7.4 rebounds), who’s a junior now.
To round out what Walkenhurst touts as good depth in the region, Viewmont has a handful of skilled, experienced returners from a 7-15 squad last year that jelled enough to 5-5 in region play.
Around the 5A classification
The two teams who played for the title last year — Corner Canyon and Jordan — are now in 6A. Olympus didn’t go away just because Rylan Jones is playing at Utah now. The Titans figure to be one of the favorites, if not the big favorite.
Two other schools the coaches mentioned are Timpview and Timpanogos. Right in the mix is the Bountiful-Woods Cross duo, at least at this point based on who’s coming back.