Bonneville’s players and coaches assembled Dec. 8 for practice following a 61-44 road loss to Highland. At that point the Lakers were 1-4, having won their first game earlier that week in overtime at Mountain Crest.
Normally, practices after games are light and used more for recovery and to get up a few shots. Bonneville’s coaches, though, knew the team needed to be more conditioned.
So did the players. Each one of them.
“And we had the most physical, hardest practice that year. That was the turning point right there,” Lakers head coach Tyler Dunyon said.
Since then, Bonneville’s won four games in a row, including that overtime win over Mountain Crest, a come-from-behind win at Bear River and a wire-to-wire upset over 6A Weber on Friday.
Where the team initially had issues burying the memories of last year’s one-win season, the Lakers head into Wednesday’s Region 11 opener against defending state champion Juan Diego with a noticeable bounce in their step.
“I couldn’t have picked it any better than the way we (are starting Region 11 games). To go up against the defending state champs at home is picturesque,” Dunyon said.
The Soaring Eagle has a 4-6 record this year with its fourth head coach in four years. But in those four years, the private Catholic school from Draper has won its region four times and the state championship twice. It’s one of the teams Dunyon expects to compete for the Region 11 title this year.
There isn’t a “secret formula” to Bonneville’s recent success, but senior post player Talia Afuvai says the team needed to learn how to best play with each other first.
“At the beginning, you’re all just trying to mesh with each other and we’ve figured it out,” Afuvai said.
Dunyon says the coaches preach and “go to church” on fundamentals of the game: boxing out, help defense, calling out screens and making free throws.
The Mountain Crest game was when the Lakers got their defense figured out, Dunyon said, and that in turn has helped set up the offense.
Bonneville’s offense goes goes through the post players: Afuvai and Mikaela Johnson. Afuvai leads the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game, including 22 and 25-point performances in the Bear River and Mountain Crest games.
What impressed Dunyon, particularly when Weber limited Afuvai and Johnson to just one combined point Friday, is that the Lakers didn’t wilt as many teams do when the central crux of their offense is taken away.
Instead, the guards took the game over. Senior guard Saydee Larsen averages 10.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Friday against Weber, she scored 16 points with 12 rebounds and five steals.
Larsen and Afuvai have been two of the more consistent players for the Lakers this year. And in basketball, coaches will stress that conditioning is a big part of consistency.
If the Lakers are to have a chance at the region championship or a home playoff game, that light-turned-intense practice in early December may play a big part.
Around Region 11 girls basketball
Stansbury has the early advantage in Region 11, with an 8-3 record and a win against region foe Park City before Christmas. The Stallions appear to be the early frontrunners and are regarded as such. The Nos. 2-4 spots in the region are essentially up for grabs between Juan Diego, Tooele and Bonneville.
Dunyon said not to discount Ben Lomond or Ogden, despite rough starts to the year. Ben Lomond is 2-4 and when the Scots play at Stansbury on Thursday, they will have not played in a month. Ogden is 0-9, but as the season’s progressed, the Tigers are getting closer to the first win.
Around Region 11 boys basketball
Juan Diego is last year’s state runner-up in 3A, and the Soaring Eagle reloaded and look the part of region favorites and 4A state contenders.
No other team in the region has a winning record and the two closest are Bonneville (3-6) and Park City (3-6). The Lakers’ boys team has been streaky so far, but it appears they’ve found a solid wing to build upon this year and next.
Six-foot-four junior Hank Bushell averages 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, both of which are team-highs and he can score outside and in when needed.
Keon Berghout has five double-digit scoring games for Ogden (2-8) including a season-high 22 in a loss to Cedar. Consistency has been hard to find for the Tigers’ senior and the team itself, though.
Ben Lomond is 1-8 so far with the lone win being a 40-point blowout against 2A St. Joseph. Six-foot sophomore Garet Rentmeister leads the team in scoring with 8.3 points per game.
The Scots have stayed close in the first quarter for a lot of games, but the issue has been keeping the game close on both sides of halftime.