Given the circumstances, you would think the hoopsters from Cedar and Hurricane would have more in common.
They faced each other in the 3A semifinals last year with the Tigers edging the Reds by two points and going on to win the state championship.
They both lost their starting five from those teams to graduation and had a crop of younger players anxious to step up and show what they could do.
But that’s where the similarities end.
The two met again Wednesday in Cedar City and it was clear that the Reds have distanced themselves from the rest of the region as they improved to 11-3 overall, 5-0 in Region 9 with a 76-37 drubbing of the Tigers.
Four Cedar players scored in double figures as the Reds extended their winning streak to eight games, putting them alone atop the standings while the Tigers are winless in six tries against region teams.
“We have a more balanced team (this year),” said Dustin Staggs who finished the night with 13 points and 12 rebounds. “We have a lot of players that can score. I believe we have a complete, championship-caliber team.”
Cedar coach Craig Cardon attributed his team’s success not to any one player, but to a collective effort from every guy on the court.
“This is a good group of kids,” Cardon said. “We don’t have any really outstanding players, but we blend really well. I think this team is a pretty complete unit.”
The completeness of the team was evident as Cedar used every available resource to overwhelm Hurricane from the game’s inception.
Every starter hit a shot in the first four minutes of the game as Cedar took a 13-4 lead on a three-pointer from Kordan Nielson, who finished with seven points in the opening period.
Cedar never looked back or slowed down, piling on the offense and building a 37-22 lead at the half.
A third-quarter blitz in which Cedar outscored the Tigers 24-7 put the game away and made the final frame nothing but a formality.
Staggs scored nine of his 13 points in the third period while Mike Hourigan added seven more.
“We usually pick up the tempo in the third quarter,” said Hourigan who also had 11 assists. “It’s just a good quarter for us.”
The bench took over in the final quarter and Cedar left the court with its largest margin of victory in recent memory.
Even with the comfortable win, Cardon said it’s important for his team not to lose focus and be cognizant of the fact they still have a lot of tough teams left to face.
“We’re 5-0 in region and that’s all I’m worried about right now,” Cardon said. “We have a tough Pine View team coming up, that’s our concern. We haven’t qualified for anything, we haven’t done anything yet. Our focus is Pine View on Friday.”