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High school boys basketball: Corner Canyon surges to first in Region 4

No. 1 Corner Canyon has looked every bit the part of the best boys basketball team in Utah this season.

It owns a 16-2 overall record, including a 9-0 record against Utah teams with a margin of victory of 17.4 points. It rolled through the first half of Region 4 play with a perfect 5-0 record, all double-digit wins.

It’s averaging 75 points per game highlighted by two of the top eight scorers in 6A — Max Toombs and Brody Kozlowski.

Even though on the outside it looks like everything is clicking perfectly, coach Dan Lunt knows there’s another level to get to.

“We’ve shown glimpses of being really, really good, but we can get better. That’s the exciting thing about this group is we haven’t reached our ceiling, it’s still a ways away. Our goal is to be playing our best basketball when the state tournament rolls around,” said Lunt.

It’s not hard for Lunt to get his players to buy into that sentiment either.

Corner Canyon lost in last year’s 6A state championship game to American Fork 43-39, a game that naturally has served as extra motivation ever since.

Corner Canyon’s Brody Kozlowski shoots over Lone Peak’s Luke Fotheringham in a high school boys basketball game in Highland on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

“We talk about it quite often, I won’t say every day, but we talk about it,” said Lunt.

It’s no accident Corner Canyon is the favorite to get over the hump this year. Since that loss back on March 5, the players have worked tirelessly and played a ton of games against elite out-of-state competition. Whether it was in the spring, summer or in preseason tournaments this winter, Lunt’s team tested itself against high level teams throughout the country and it’s translating to success here in Utah.

Toombs believes the biggest benefit to all experience has been defensively.

“Going to every big tournament we could, I feel like that helped us get to where we are right now, defending really good people, 6-10, 7-footers, super good guards and overall it’s just helped us with our defense,” said Toombs.

Throughout the process, the players have tried to be mindful of all the little details, because those things contributed to the 43-39 loss to American Fork in last year’s championship — a low-scoring game that figures to be a thing of the past with the shot clock.

“We learned that we have to have that grit, more toughness for sure. American Fork made more hustle plays than us that game, we learned from that. We don’t want to be in that position again,” said Kozlowski.

Corner Canyon dropped a couple of preseason games in December, the first a surprising loss to Liberty, Nevada, at the Charger Tournament and the second to nationally ranked Beaumont United, Texas, at the Lehi tournament on Dec. 10.

Corner Canyon has won 11 straight games since, including a 4-0 showing at the Visit Mesa Tournament in Arizona before the Christmas break.

“We know we’re a really good team and that we can play against anyone in the nation and in the state, so I feel like after Arizona we’ve felt really good about ourselves,” said Kozlowski, a junior who’s the top recruit on the team and a top 100 recruit in the country in the 2024 class.

Kozlowski ranks eighth in 6A in scoring at 17.2 ppg. Toombs is third at 22.9 ppg, and completing the three-headed scoring monster for the Chargers is guard Jaxson Roberts who averages 14.2 ppg, good for 20th in 6A.

Last week in Corner Canyon’s 83-59 blowout win over streaking Lone Peak, the trio combined for 61 points.

In Corner Canyon’s five region wins, four different players have led the team in scoring at least once — Toombs, Roberts, Kozlowski and Kallen Lewis.

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Corner Canyon’s Jaxon Roberts dunks in a high school boys basketball game against Lone Peak in Highland on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Lunt said coaching this year’s team has been easier than some years because the players are all on the same page instead of having different agendas.

“It’s a team that enjoys each other and enjoys being around each other and enjoys playing together, and that’s probably the biggest thing,” said Lunt.

Added Kozlowski, “We just have really tight chemistry. We’re really good buddies, we’re always trying to be together outside of school.”

Roberts said it’s that camaraderie that makes big wins over Lone Peak possible because everyone trusts each other to take the right shots as the offense dictates and then play great defense at the other end.

The Chargers will try and continue that momentum through the second half of region play and then into the 6A state tournament as the school eyes its second state championship in school history.

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