Ogden • Synonymous with star players and state championships, the Wasatch High School boys’ basketball program has sky-high expectations every season.
But unlike in years past, this year’s Wasps don’t have a star. They don’t have a guy who coach Lonnie Magnusson can call a designed play for when the clock is dwindling.
Instead, this year’s Wasatch team has made another deep tournament run, but this time it’s predicated on mistake-free basketball and hard-nosed defense.
It worked Thursday afternoon at the Dee Events Center as the Wasps defeated the No. 1 seed out of Region 12, the Spanish Fork Dons, 46-36 in their 3A state quarterfinal matchup.
"There is a great tradition there," Magnusson said. "There’s a lot of expectation."
Headlined by the staunch defensive effort, the Wasps held the Dons, who came in riding a 10-game winning streak, to single-digit scoring in the final three quarters. Wasatch also made the most crucial run of the game in the third quarter when a 12-2 outburst gave the Wasps an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
From there, seniors Chris Johnson, Jake Larson and Cooper Ballstaedt and Co. made sure they would have another shot at living up to the history of the program.
"We’ve focused on the desire," said Johnson, who had a game-high 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Magnusson said the key for this year’s team was finding its identity midway throughout the season after many players still were figuring out what roles they needed to fill.
"If the kids believe in themselves," he said, "that’s huge."
While those roles have been filled by a number of players, the defensive effort the Wasps gave was what propelled them into Friday’s 3A semifinals. The Wasps held Spanish Fork to 26 percent shooting from the field and made the most their offensive opportunities.
"We have a full team," Larson said. "We all contribute."
Magnusson, who coached some of those storied Wasatch title-winning teams in the 2000s, said he’s having fun this year’s group.
And now these Wasps without a star, without a player averaging double digits, suddenly are one game from another 3A state championship game.
"For most of them," Magnusson said, "they watched those previous teams come through and they want to be part of that."
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