By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography) & Kevin McInnis
OREM – A lot of questions hung over the field when the Class 4A boys basketball tournament began Monday at two venues. With the event’s opening days butting up against ACT test day all over the state, the format was changed, and that was one of the biggest stories.
Perhaps the positives of having four games at Utah Valley University and four games at Weber State University, with the first games beginning at 2:30 in the afternoon will lead to a scheduling repeat going forward. Eliminated were the early morning and late night start and finish times and that is probably a great thing for the participants.
The favorites coming in had to be Region 7 champion Timpview, Region 6 champion Olympus and Region 5 titlist Woods Cross, but this tournament appeared to be wide open from the outset. With that in mind, here are five of the stories that stood out for me on state tournament Day 1.
1) Buzzer Beaters
There were some serious tournament-opening blowouts Monday, but three of the eight games came right down to the wire, two ending with late game-winning shots and the third on a late miss.
It’s hard to say which of these three results was the biggest surprise, but since Mountain View only reached the postseason after winning a Region 7 play-in game against Timpanogos, the Bruins’ win over Region 8 champion Maple Mountain probably owns that designation.
After riding the hot hand of Brigham Bateman to a big early lead, and then watching that lead disappear, Mountain View was able to once again take a six-point advantage late in the fourth period before surviving a late Maple Mountain rally. The Golden Eagles had the ball, down two, as the clock ticked off its final seconds, but came up empty despite a relatively clean look right at the rim, and the Bruins advanced 66-64.
The two 2:30 contests that tipped off the day provided major drama, as Jaden Terry drained a 3-pointer that allowed Payson to turn a two-point deficit into a 46-45 upset win over Corner Canyon. That game was played at Weber State.
At about the same time, in a tie game at UVU with 5.4 seconds remaining, Kearns guard Nick Valles advanced the ball from a midcourt in-bounds pass, launching a long 3-pointer that hit net to give the Cougars a 51-48 buzzer-beating victory over East.
2) Bad Day To Be No. 2
Monday was a horrible day for 4A’s four second-place finishers, as the quartet of squads all lost opening-round state playoff games to the third seeds they opposed. Kearns and Payson were two of the three seeds who moved on, and they were joined later in the day by Orem and Highland.
The Tigers took care of Region 8 No. 2 Wasatch by a 58-50 count in Ogden, while the Rams dispatched a team with high expectations, Murray, 72-59 in the UVU nightcap.
3) Brigham Bateman
Inside, outside, it didn’t much matter Monday for Mountain View’s Brigham Bateman. The 6-foot-1 senior guard scored from everywhere, and most critically, scored every time his team needed points as he led the Bruins to the upset over Maple Mountain.
Bateman finished the game with 32 points and 11 rebounds, just a point shy of scoring half of his team’s points. He was also a focal point at the defensive end for Mountain View, a team that caught fire late in the year and is now seeing just how far it can carry that momentum.
4) Top Teams Power Through
Other than the stunning loss by Maple Mountain, the tourney’s first day went pretty much as expected for the 4A top seeds, and better than expected for two of them.
Behind sharpshooter Trevin Knell, who finished with 23 points and six boards, Woods Cross rolled to an 18-3 advantage by the end of the first quarter and coasted home from there to a 69-44 win over Hillcrest. Olympus opened a 23-9 lead in the opening stanza and took it the rest of the way in beating Box Elder 79-49.
For No. 1 ranked Timpview, it was a little more arduous a journey, but the Thunderbirds pulled away in the third with some timely defense, taking that quarter 16-7 to lead 44-27. From there, Salem Hills did a whole lot of scoring down the stretch, but it was not nearly enough as Timpview won by a dozen, 67-55.
5) Dynamic Rick Schmidt
He did most of his second-half scoring from the charity stripe, but before intermission of Highland’s 72-59 upset of Murray, Ram forward Rick Schmidt put on a dazzling performance, with a combination of post scoring, outside shooting, rebounding and passing that showed his full game. When the Spartans doubled down, the 6-8 senior passed out of it and when they guarded him straight up, he made them pay.
Schmidt scored 18 in the first half and finished the game with 26 points and eight rebounds. That height, combined with that game will make him a difficult guard going forward.
Top Individual Day 1 Performances:
Isaac Monson, Olympus (32 points, 12 rebounds)
Brigham Bateman, Mountain View (32 points, 11 rebounds)
Rick Schmidt, Highland (26 points, 8 rebounds)
Kade Poulsen, Maple Mountain (26 points)
Trevin Knell, Woods Cross (23 points, 6 rebounds)
Noah Johnson, Orem (21 points, 10 rebounds)
Ryan Lambson, Highland (20 points, 8 rebounds)
Dacian Spotted Elk, East (18 points, 10 rebounds)
Kur Kuath, Kearns (17 points, 14 rebounds)
Gavin Baxter, Timpview (16 points, 13 rebounds)
Matt Lindsey, Olympus (16 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists)
AJ Bollinger, Timpview (16 points)
Levi Wilson, Timpview (6 assists)
The quarterfinal round tips at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday inside the Huntsman Center on campus at the University of Utah. It features a full slate of unexpected, and interesting, matchups.
Mountain View vs. Highland (2:30 p.m.)
The Bruins will need Bateman, Kedrick Clayton and Ricky Stafford to lead the way as they try to continue this unexpected run. The matchup on the perimeter should be intense with that trio going up against Ram guards Lambson, Brevin Elsholz and Will Trice, but this game will lean heavily on Rick Schmidt and how Mountain View is able to deal with his presence without a really clear choice to match up on him.
Timpview vs. Kearns (4:10 p.m.)
This is one of the most intriguing matchups of the day. Timpview has the ability to really stroke the three, but it also has AJ Bollinger as a low-post presence and Gavin Baxter’s length and skill in the mid-range, at the rim and occasionally from deep.
Kearns counters with incredible quickness, a few good shooters and an aggressive defensive style. If the Cougars can get the tempo to their liking, frustrate Timpview and force the Thunderbirds to rush up bad shots from deep, this could be a very interesting test for the favored team.
Olympus vs. Orem (5:50 p.m.)
When you want to push the pace the way the Titans do, Orem might be the last team you want to see on the other bench. The Tigers will play with a deliberate style, slow the game down and in doing so, look to take Olympus out of its comfort zone.
The Titans have the weapons to get through to the semifinals, but Orem has enough to make it interesting if it can keep the game in the 40s or 50s.
Payson vs. Woods Cross (7:30 p.m.)
Who knows what to expect from this one. When Trevin Knell and the Wildcats get it going, this is a team that can roll through anyone in this field, but Payson is back at full strength now and can be dangerous.
Like the game that will proceed it, tempo will be everything in this one, with Woods Cross hoping to get Payson into a scoring chase that favors the Region 5 champs.