Football

High school boys and girls basketball teams turn sights to region play

Now that the dust has settled from the crazy volume of boys and girls high school basketball games in December, what are we to make of what we’ve seen?

Are the same teams who began the season at the top of the preseason rankings still the favorites, or have new contenders crept into the conversation about teams who’ll be at the center of attention in late February and early March?

It appears to be a mix of both as there have certainly been a handful of surprising teams thus far.

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American Fork’s Ashton Wallace (20) drives against Corner Canyon’s Max Toombs in the 6A boys basketball state championship game at BYU in Provo on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

6A boys

Of all the classifications, this is the one where things have played out about how everyone expected. Four of the top five teams in the latest 6A Deseret News rankings were in the preseason top five rankings (Corner Canyon, American Fork, Cyprus and Westlake).

There appears to be separation at the top as well.

American Fork and Corner Canyon were 1-2 heading into the season, and all they’ve done this preseason is validate their lofty expectations as they could be heading for a championship rematch.

Corner Canyon overtook the Cavemen for the top spot in 6A after going 4-0 at the Visit Mesa tournament in Arizona before the break, with Max Toombs being named tournament MVP. The Chargers beat Brophy Prep — a top 10 team in Arizona — for their final victory.

American Fork, meanwhile, went 2-2 in the Platinum Division of the Damien Classic in California.

Cyprus also played in the Damien Classic, winning the third division after beating Lone Peak in the title game.

Region 4 play begins next week, and it starts with a doozy as Corner Canyon travels to American Fork.

6A girls

On the surface, top-ranked Lone Peak’s 7-3 record so far is a drop off after a resounding 23-0 state championship season a year ago.

A closer look tells a completely different story. The Knights went 3-3 against out-of-state teams this year in a pair of tournaments, with five of those six teams ranked in the MaxPreps top 25 national rankings. The most heartbreaking loss for Lone Peak was a 62-60 loss to California’s No. 5 La Jolla Country Day in the semifinals of the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix.

Lone Peak turns its attention back to the state of Utah beginning this week, which could mean a return to blowout win after blowout win like in its previous four wins against Utah teams this year.

Fremont heads into the new year ranked No. 2 in 6A after posting a 6-4 record against tough preseason competition.

Skyridge, Copper Hills and Mountain Ridge round out the current top five heading into 2023, and all have the potential for a deep state tournament run. Whether or not any of them can compete with Lone Peak will play out in the months ahead.

5A boys

The current top three teams in 5A are the same as when the season started, just in a different order (Alta, Olympus, Woods Cross). The talk of 5A thus far though is the resurgence of the Cottonwood program.

Last year the Colts went 15-9, their first winning season since the 2007-2008 season, and they’ve picked up where they’ve left off with a strong 10-1 start to the season. It includes impressive wins over Murray and Riverton.

Murray was a preseason top 5 team and, led by top scorer Chris Cox, the Colts rolled to the 18-point win.

Alta has enjoyed the best start to the season in 5A with a 10-1 record as it’s been buoyed by Bingham transfer Ace Reiser. Alta went 3-1 at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas before the break.

Olympus stayed in-state for the preseason like it always does, and its lone loss was to American Fork in the season opener, 64-56.

Among the Titans’ 11 wins was a resounding 63-38 victory over Woods Cross, last year’s 4A runner-up.

Timpview began the season outside the top 5 rankings, but it’s jumped into the conversation with an impressive win over Cyprus and a couple of solid wins at the Tarkanian Classic.

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Springville’s Kayla Porray passes around Mountain Ridge’s Addyson Cook as they play in the Beetdigger Classic at West Lake High School in Saratoga Springs on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

5A girls

Defending state champion Springville never shies away from tough competition. It’s already played the toughest preseason schedule of anyone else in 5A, which still also includes a game against juggernaut Lone Peak this week.

Springville’s lone loss was sweet redemption for Bountiful, which heads into the new year ranked No. 1 in 5A with an 8-0 record.

Bountiful was humbled by Springville in the semifinals a year ago, 41-21, but it got a small level of revenge in a 58-50 win over the Red Devils in a rematch in early December.

Bountiful has been winning with balanced scoring and defense and it will no question be one of the teams to beat in early March.

Lehi, Woods Cross and Timpview round out the top five heading into 2023, but there figures to be weekly shakeup in those rankings with ton of parity in 5A after the top two teams. Every team after Bountiful and Springville has at least two losses this season.

4A boys

Dixie and Sky View are exactly where they began the season, ranked first and second, respectively, in 4A.

The surprise is that preseason No. 3 Snow Canyon, the defending state champs, has slipped out of the top five rankings. Perhaps it shouldn’t be though after its leading two scorers a year ago transferred to different schools — Lyman Simmons (RSL Academy) and Bowen Hammer (Fairmont Prep, Nevada).

The Warriors played a tough schedule — which included a 1-3 showing at the Visit Mesa Tournament — and should still very much be in the conversation in Region 10 play which starts this week.

Dixie has been as good as advertised thus far with wins over Riverton, Logan and Copper Hills, with its lone loss coming to Farmington at the Skyridge Tournament.

Sky View has posted a 9-2 record thus far led by balanced scoring with four players averaging in double figures.

The Bobcats’ impressive start includes wins over Layton Christian and Woods Cross, with narrow losses to 5A’s Olympus and Murray.

Logan has been perhaps the biggest surprise so far this season as the Grizzlies posted a 7-4 preseason record after a difficult 8-15 showing a year ago.

4A girls

Ridgeline is indeed as good as advertised.

With all five starters back from last year’s 24-2, state runner-up team, the Riverhawks have steamrolled both Utah and Idaho teams so far this season with a perfect 11-0 record and a 28-point average margin of victory.

Its only single-digit win was a 47-39 win over Rigby, Idaho — a top 10 Idaho team.

Last year’s 4A player of the year, Emilee Skinner, has picked up right where she left off average 21.6 ppg.

The question is, can anyone else in 4A compete with Ridgeline? No doubt that No. 2 Sky View and No. 3 Green Canyon believe they can, and they’ll get two cracks at the Riverhawks once region play gets started next week.

In Region 10, no team really stood out this preseason, but with region play getting going both Snow Canyon and defending state champion Desert Hills figure to find their groove.

3A boys

Grantsville was a narrow 3A runner-up a year ago to Layton Christian — now in 4A — and this season the Cowboys are in the exact same No. 1 spot seven weeks into the season as they were at the start of the year.

Grantsville’s only two losses this year came against West Jordan and Idaho juggernaut Preston High School.

No. 2 Manti has been equally as impressive this preseason, which includes a resounding 81-48 win over Morgan, which is ranked fourth in the 3A rankings. Was that a one-off showing for the Trojans, or is the gap in 3A that big between the top two teams and everyone else.

Morgan will get a couple chances to redeem itself in region play against Grantsville.

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Grantsville’s Ellie Thomas (4) and Kenzie Allen (3) try to stop Layton Christian’s Mine Iscen (10) in the 3A girls basketball quarterfinals at Weber State University in Ogden on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

3A girls

The same teams in the preseason top five are the same teams in the current top five, but the order has completely been shaken up by a pair of results.

Current No. 2 Carbon earned an impressive 51-43 over No. 3 Grantsville, while Grantsville best victory was a 52-50 win over Richfield.

Grantsville’s loss opened the door for Morgan to take over the top spot in 3A heading into the new year. The Trojans haven’t played any of the other ranked teams in 3A, but preseason wins over Green Canyon and Canyon, California, are feathers in their cap heading into region play.

Defending state champion Judge Memorial sits outside the top five with a 9-5 record, but its young team is getting better each week and hoping to be a factor at state later this season.

Once region play gets underway for Region 12 and Region 13 — where most of the top contenders reside — many questions about how 3A may shake out come playoff time will be answered.

2A boys

No team or teams ran away from the pack this preseason as parity will likely be the main talking point in 2A basketball over the next two months.

The top four teams in the preseason (South Sevier, Kanab, Millard and Enterprise) are all still ranked in the top four, even though Kanab has overtaken South Sevier at the No. 1 spot.

Both Kanab and South Sevier have displayed a knack for winning close games, and that should pay dividends once they dive into the ultra-competitive Region 19 slate next week along with other 2A ranked foe Enterprise.

The X-factor in 2A this year will be charter school American Heritage out of Region 18. It doesn’t cross over and play many teams outside of the Wasatch Front, but it did play San Juan back in December and won 83-50. Even though the defending champion Broncos aren’t nearly the same team they were a year ago, it’s a barometer for American Heritage in that it can compete with anyone in 2A.

2A girls

With a perfect 11-0 start to the season, defending 2A state champion Kanab hasn’t moved from the No. 1 ranking it began the season with.

It had to grind out a tight 49-43 win over North Sevier at the Sevier Valley Center back on Dec. 17, but other than that it’s been smooth sailing for Kanab with Anna Cutler, Rylee Little and Ashlyn Houston all averaging in double figures.

Tougher competition definitely awaits when the ultra-competitive Region 19 tips this week as No. 2 Beaver, No. 3 South Sevier and No. 5 Parowan are all on Kanab’s schedule twice over the next two months.

The only team outside of Region 19 in the current 2A top five rankings is North Sevier, which has played a tough preseason schedule full of Region 19 teams and knows what it takes to compete with the best in 2A.

Beaver may ultimately be the biggest threat to Kanab. Beaver was actually the top seed in the 2A playoffs a year ago after beating Kanab twice in region play, but was stunned by No. 8 seed South Sevier in the 2A quarterfinals.

1A boys

The preseason top five teams in 1A haven’t changed since the season began in mid-November, with Panguitch, Manila, Piute, Valley and Tabiona hanging onto the top spots.

Top-ranked Panguitch picked up the most impressive win of the preseason at the Sevier Valley Center back in December when it edged No. 2 Manila in overtime. The Mustangs turned around and beat No. 3 Piute the next day.

Those two games helped set the 1A pecking order for the preseason, but No. 4 Valley and No. 5 Tabiona also had great preseasons which sets up what should be very exciting region races in the top two regions in 1A — Region 20 and Region 22.

1A girls

A Region 20 team has won nine straight 1A state championships, but No. 1 Rich is hoping to end the near-decadelong streak.

Rich opened the season back in November with a win over Panguitch and then two-time defending state champion Piute. Between those two teams they’ve seven of the past nine 1A state championships.

Rich’s only loss since those two victories was a setback against 2A’s North Summit, a tough test that should prepare the Rebels for region play the rest of the way. Rich’s last state championship came back in 2011.

The rest of the contenders in 1A figure to come from Region 20 once again, led by No. 2 Panguitch, No. 3 Valley, No. 4 Wayne and No. 5 Bryce Valley.

Piute sits outside the top five after playing a difficult preseason slate full of 2A teams, but the T-Birds figure to be right in the thick of the Region 20 and 1A playoff race later in the year.

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