BRIGHAM CITY — Those within the Box Elder High girls basketball program know clearly the significance of making the playoffs last season. The Bees hadn’t done that since 2008.
This year, Box Elder has its eyes on an even larger prize — the school’s first region title since 1981.
With senior Dixie State University-signee Keslee Stevenson and three other returning starters — sophomore guard Emily Isaacson, junior guard Kambri Curtis and senior forward Addisyn Peacock — the pieces appear to be in place.
“I think that they have the potential, but they have to engage in the process,” Box Elder coach Aaron Dooley said. “Potential and reality is sometimes two different things and so they have got to understand that nothing’s given, everything’s earned. And right now, we’re only talking about the process.”
To become region champions, Box Elder will have to go through the defending 4-A state champion Bountiful Braves. Bountiful only returns one starter from last year’s team, junior guard Jaimee Stahle, but the Braves have made the playoffs each of the last seven years. Three of the last four years, Bountiful has been a top seed.
Bonneville returns two starters, junior guard Saydee Larsen and junior forward Talia Afuvai, and has also been a fixture in the playoffs with six straight tournament appearances.
Dooley and Bonneville coach Ty Dunyon expect Highland to be formidable as well, and Bountiful coach Joel Burton expects East to compete for the region title.
There’s no debating who the favorite is in Region 1, and it’s the defending 5-A state runner-up Sky View Bobcats.
Sky View, which lost to Layton in the 5-A championship game last year, returns three starters who are all seniors this year: guard Kaylee Carlsen, forward Hunter Krebs and guard Kylie Hale. All three have committed to play at Westminster College.
Fremont took the second seed from Region 1 last year but only returns one starter, guard Berklee Lerohl. Clearfield also made the playoffs and returns two starters, guard Haylie Anderson and forward Rachel Watson. Roy, Northridge and Weber all missed the playoffs last year but combine to return seven starters.
The Royals return guard Sarah Shulz and 6-foot-5 forward Josie Williams, the Knights return guards Jessica Ellis and Lydia Mashburn and the Warriors return guard Taylor Morris as well as forwards Bridget Triplett and Taylor Rumsey.
Viewmont has the most returning experience in Region 2.
The Vikings return six players who gained starting experience last year with junior point guard Mercedes Staples leading the way. Staples has scholarship offers from Utah Valley University, Southern Utah University and Montana State University.
Senior center Megan Carr, senior guard Tori Page, junior forward Melissa Sorenson, senior guard/forward Sam Hogge and senior guard Grace Johnson also return for Viewmont.
Layton returns just one starter, senior guard/forward Livia Borges, as does Davi, junior guard Lindsey Reich.
Syracuse won just one region game last year but returns four starters. Three of those starters — guard Emery Marshall, forward Belen Gollaher and forward Kaycee Adams — are seniors. Junior guard Valarie Harker is also a returning starter.
Morgan returns three starters (senior guard Brookelyn Hurlbut, junior center Marcie Stapley and junior guard Morgan Cragun), Layton Christian returns two starters (senior center Kylie Goodwin and junior forward Tess Henry), and St. Joseph returns two starters (senior guard/forward Addy Okwale and senior forward Kathleen Tomon).
ROY — After three straight playoff appearances, the Roy High boys basketball team took a step back last season. Roy won just three region contests – two against a Clearfield team that didn’t win a single game – and failed to qualify for the tournament.
Roy now has a new head coach, Terry Schriver.
Schriver took over after Dan McClure stepped down in the offseason.
Roy has three returning starters (center Justin Boley, guard Alex Lamb and guard Triston Bitton), but is still young. Boley is the only senior of the three.
If there’s a silver lining for the Royals, it’s that other schools in Region 1 have taken significant hits. Mountain Crest lost three starters, including star senior Jaxon Brenchley, to Ridgeline, and Weber lost leading scorer Grant Ellison to graduation. The Warriors went a perfect 12-0 in Region 1 last year.
Weber and Fremont each have one returning starter. The Warriors return guard Connor Shaw while the Silver Wolves return guard Saxton Morby.
Layton is the defending Region 2 champion but took a blow with the loss of star guard Julian Blackmon, now playing football at the University of Utah. The Lancers also lost Jakoby Kemp, who went on to sign with the University of Missouri, and Chandler Obray, who averaged nearly a double-double.
Davis has just one returning starter, forward Ben Rigby. Rigby is committed to play baseball at BYU.
Woods Cross is the defending Region 5 champion and returns two key pieces to last year’s run — guard Trevin Knell and forward Cameron Allen. Knell recently signed a letter of intent to play basketball at the University of California-Berkeley. Both are seniors.
Guard play is a strength for Region 5 teams overall with Ogden returning Jaxon Clarke, Box Elder returning Max Watson and Bountiful returning Brig Willard. The Tigers also return forward Hunter Clarke.
Ridgeline is the trendy pick in Region 11 because of Brenchley, Landon Jenson and Theron Wallentine — all starters at Mountain Crest last year — but Bear River, Logan and Ben Lomond also have a number of key returners.
The Bears return Mike Litchford and Gunner Sorensen, the Scots return Ben Mendoza, Adrian Perez, Kenyon Harris and Jackson Zundel, and the Grizzlies return Jared Bagley and Cody Brimhall.
Layton Christian returns a number of key players, including All-Area first-team selection Nicolas Aguirre and All-Area second-team selection Christians Gutierrez, from its 2-A state runner-up squad last year.
Chan Hargraves, Micah Petty, Oscar Lopez and Sano Gasana also return for the Eagles.