Midvale • East coach Mitch Smith couldn’t help but smile when “Ring Of Fire” played as his squad and Hillcrest came onto the court to kick off the boys’ basketball season.
Smith later said it was just because it happened to be a song he knew, which was unusual for him.
But it turned out to be a harbinger of things soon to come, at least for East, as the visiting Leopards proceeded to heat up the cylinder in the first quarter.
East hit all 11 of its shots in the opening stanza, led 26-5 after one and cruised to a 82-54 victory Tuesday.
“I had no idea of what to expect. We’d seen glimpses the last couple of weeks, but we hadn’t seen that,” said Smith, who is in his first year as East’s coach. “It was a nice surprise to see them play that well together.”
Tuesday marked the first day of play for many Utah prep basketball teams, and Hillcrest had three regulars back from a squad that lost to the eventual state champion in the Class 4A state semifinals last year.
But the Huskies were unable to stay close from the start.
The Leopards initially fed the ball into 6-foot-10 senior Michael Frazier, who signed two weeks ago to play at Boise State. And on defense, East encouraged Hillcrest to drive into the middle, where Frazier was hanging out.
“Feels great,” said Frazier, who had 13 points. “We came out and moved the ball, shared it. And we really pride ourselves on defense.”
But East didn’t take long to show it had much more than the big man.
Junior guard Taylor Zwick, who finished with a game-high 22 points, canned four 3-pointers in the first half. Senior Jeremy Jiba also had 13 points at intermission en route to 16.
And it may have been sophomore Andre Mulibea who proved to be the best player on the court. Starting out as a force rebounding, Mulibea eventually transitioned to point guard and ended with 14 points.
“He’s any position he wants to be, to be honest,” Smith said. “He’s one of those guys. He’s just a sophomore. He’s a man. Nobody can keep him out of the middle.”
Senior Tyson Flores came off the bench to lead Hillcrest with 16 points, while sophomore Brox Ashby had 15.
EAST 82, HILLCREST 54
• East, led by Taylor Zwick’s 22 points, scores 25 straight between the first and second quarters.
• Jeremy Jiba (16 points), sophomore Andre Mulibea (14) and recent Boise State-signee Michael Frazier (13) all hit double figures in the win.
• Tyson Flores leads Hillcrest with 16 points, but the Huskies go the equivalent of an entire period without scoring in the first half.