Last season, Region 6 boasted three teams in the semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament. Highland won the title over region rival Bountiful.
Is such regional dominance liable to happen again?
“I don’t think so,” Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell says. “There’s a lot of balance this year. I think teams from all over the place are going to be winning.
“Then again,” he adds, “I’ve been wrong before.”
It seems as though no one truly knows how this year’s 4A playoffs will take shape. Bountiful (18-2) has had a fantastic year again, but it doesn’t bring back any starters from its finals run last season. Orem (20-1) is the top-ranked team in the state and beat Lone Peak, but the current group of Tigers have been playing together for only this season after transfers changed the team’s fortunes.
So who else could win? No. 1 seeds Olympus and Mountain Crest? Defending champ Highland? It’s anybody’s guess.
“Our guys have been excited to start the playoffs this week, but I’ve done this long enough to know that favorites don’t always win,” Maxwell says. “We try to remember it’s the little things that win games: Did you cover your man? Did you box out? Did you make the extra pass? You’ve got to do all those to win in the playoffs.”
Bountiful might be the most intriguing contender, sweeping its region despite unveiling a new starting lineup. The Braves have more size than just about anyone else in the bracket, and Brit Harding has stepped up scoring.
Unfortunately for Bountiful, it’s in the same half of the bracket as Orem, a team that has lost only to West Jordan this season. The Tigers have four players who average nine points or more, led by junior point guard Zach Hunsaker, who transferred from Woods Cross. Jordan Darger, Josh Pollard and Dalton Nixon provide plenty of size and scoring inside.
The biggest question before the season was whether the team could develop chemistry. Coach Golden Holt now believes that isn’t a question.
“We didn’t win 20 games by accident — these guys are comfortable with each other and unselfish,” he says. “I couldn’t be happier with how they’ve come along. We’ve only played 21 games together, but we’ve learned a lot about playing with each other.”
Other contenders are looking for a piece of the action. Mountain Crest came out on top of a three-way tie in Region 5, and it now looks in good position to make a run. Tyler Crosbie and Famafili Laulu Pututau have led the Mustangs to success this year, but the whole team makes this matchup tough.
“We’ll defend and rebound really well — that’s our game,” coach Graydon Buchmiller says. “I think maybe some teams won’t be prepared for how many scorers we have. Different guys have stepped up this season at different times.”
Also in the mix is Olympus, which boasts 6-foot-6 forward Will Cannon, one of 4A’s best scorers and rebounders. Skyline and Sky View are going head to head in the first round: Either one could present a tough out in the later rounds.
East’s Parker Van Dyke will try to lead the Leopards on their first playoff run in years, but they will first have to get past a tough Springville team. Highland has hopes of defending its championship, but Provo stands in its way in the first round.
State playoff schedule
Monday (Class 4A)
9:30 a.m. • Provo vs. Highland
11:10 a.m. • Mountain Crest vs. Hillcrest
12:50 p.m. • Olympus vs. Bonneville
2:30 p.m. • East vs. Springville
4:10 p.m. • Sky View vs. Skyline
5:50 p.m. • Orem vs. Woods Cross
7:30 p.m. • Bountiful vs. Timpview
9:10 p.m. • Herriman vs. Logan
Tuesday (Class 5A)
9:30 a.m. • Lone Peak vs. Kearns
11:10 a.m. • Northridge vs. Copper Hills
12:50 p.m. • West Jordan vs. Fremont
2:30 p.m. • Hunter vs. Bingham
4:10 p.m. • Weber vs. Brighton
5:50 p.m. • American Fork vs. West
7:30 p.m. • Viewmont vs. Riverton
9:10 p.m. • Alta vs. Davis