Orem sneaked up on the best boys’ basketball team in Utah a year ago.
Orem coach Golden Holt doesn’t think his Tigers will be as fortunate this season against what could be the best team in Utah high school history.
The No. 1-ranked Lone Peak Knights, currently ranked No. 3 in the nation by MaxPreps.com, will have their shot at redemption this weekend at the Great Western Shootout, which is hosted by Orem.
The Tigers shocked the Knights 57-51 last December, but Lone Peak played that game without then-junior center Eric Mika, who had to sit out last season due to transfer eligibility rules. This time around, Mika, along with stars Nick Emery and TJ Haws, will have a shot at eradicating last year’s loss.
“I believe to be the best, you’ve got to play the best,” said Holt, who created the Great Western Shootout. “I think it was just big brother showing up to play little brother, and the little brother just snuck up on them. But they’re ready for us this year.”
The Tigers and Knights are slated to tangle at Orem High School once again in the tournament’s marquee matchup at 5 p.m. Saturday. The three-day tournament will run Thursday through Saturday at Orem.
Three top schools from out of state will be out to prove themselves against some of Utah’s most talented high school programs, including Basha (Chandler, Ariz.), Foothill (Henderson, Nev.) and Denver East, which returns to the tournament a year after falling to Lone Peak 84-58. Other Utah schools set to participate in the tournament are West Jordan, Bountiful and South Sevier.
Denver East coach Rudy Carey, who has led the Angels to five Colorado Class 5A state championships, said last year’s showing at the Shootout was an eye-opener for his talented but young squad, which featured an all-sophomore starting five last season.
“We knew they were good, but we didn’t know they were that good,” he said about Lone Peak.
South Sevier coach Scott Hunt said this year’s Rams, led by Southern Utah commit Race Parsons, are eager to see how his team fares against larger schools.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us,” Hunt said. “In a sense, we’re representing all the small schools that don’t get this opportunity, but we don’t have any grand illusions of going up there and rocking the world. We know we’re the underdogs.”
Great Western Shootout schedule
At Orem High School
3:30 p.m. • Bountiful vs. Denver East
6:40 p.m. • Lone Peak vs. Foothill (Nev.)
8:15 p.m. • Orem vs. Basha (Ariz.)
3:30 p.m. • Bountiful vs. South Sevier
5:05 p.m. • West Jordan vs. Basha (Ariz.)
6:40 p.m. • Orem vs. Foothill (Nev.)
8:15 p.m. • Lone Peak vs. Denver East
Noon • Bountiful vs. Basha (Ariz.)
1:35 p.m. • South Sevier vs. Foothill (Nev.)
3:30 p.m. • West Jordan vs. Denver East
5 p.m. • Lone Peak vs. Orem