ST. GEORGE Three years ago, the Desert Hills boys’ basketball team made it to the 3A state championship game against Hurricane, only to fall a couple of points short from winning the state title.
Since then, Desert Hills has not been able to break its recent curse as the Thunder have been bounced in the first round of the playoffs the past two years. So the questions remains, is the third year the charm? Players and coaches seem to believe so.
“Losing in the first round the last couple of years has really been in the back of our minds,” senior point guard Max Mills said. “It’s really motivated our team to become better and to really push ourselves in practice.”
The Thunder don’t have a whole lot of experience returning this year, but head coach Wade Turley likes what he has seen in practice so far.
“Quincy Matthews is our only returning starter, but we do have some players that have played in backup roles for us that we expect big things from this year,” he said. “I feel our team is further along as far as X’s and O’s and putting in game plans, but with our inexperience, it’s hard to tell exactly how our guys are going to respond and perform. The one thing that I do know, is that we have a lot of talent this year.”
Matthews averaged 12.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game for the Thunder as a junior last year, and looks to help lead the team as well as helping the young guys grow.
“Out of everyone on the team, I probably have the most experience,” he said. “We have a young group of guys this year and talking with the other seniors on the team, we are going to do whatever we can to help everyone learn and grow. I’ve been playing since I was a sophomore so I know what these guys are going through right now.”
With the basketball season kicking off this week, come plenty of goals and expectations. While the main goal is to go as far as they can in the playoffs, the first and most important goal is to win the region title outright.
“Our goal is to win region outright,” Turley said. “The last two years we have finished second in region and due to unfortunate events (losing a coin toss), we’ve had to go on the road to start the state tournament. We want a home playoff game this year and the only true way to do that is to win region.”
Senior guard Logan Forsyth agreed and believes in order to get past the first round, a big part of that starts with region play.
“Our first goal is to take region,” he said. “We’ve been on the road the last few years for the playoffs and have played in some difficult places. Hopefully this year we can take region in order to secure a home playoff game this season.”
Recently, region 9 coaches turned in their pre-season ballots about which team they believe will win the region title this season. To some surprises, Desert Hills was picked to finish first, while Dixie and Pine view rounded out the top 3.
“I’m baffled,” Turley said with a smile. We have only one returning starter and we are still a really young team. I believe that some of those predictions are based on what we have done in past years and how we have tried to build our program. We’ve had a good offseason, but I wouldn’t put us in first right now. Hopefully we can get there by improving each game and growing as a team.”
A big part of playing together as a team consists of team chemistry and the Thunder have plenty of that.
“I’m nervous, but at the same time I’m really excited about the season,” Forsyth said. “We have a good group of guys and some of us have been playing together since sixth grade. We have developed a lot of chemistry over the years and I’m looking forward to a fun year.”
The Thunder will certainly need all the chemistry they have as region 9 looks to be another stacked group of talented teams.
Region is always a battle,” Turley said. “We have a lot of good teams and we tend to beat each other up. I’ve heard a lot of people call us the SEC of 3A. We are usually well represented at state from our region and we know we can’t take any days off.”
Desert Hills’ plays its first game on Tuesday against Nevada powerhouse Centennial and Matthews couldn’t be more excited.
I can’t wait for the season to begin,” he said. “I told my mom today that this week starts my first game of my senior season. It’s going to be sad when it I all over, but I am going to make the best out of this last year that I have.”
Follow Justin Giles on Twitter @Justingiles22.
Desert Hills — 2014-15 Region Schedule
Dec. 10 – vs. Cedar
Dec. 17 – @ Dixie
Jan. 9 – vs. Pine View
Jan. 14 – vs. Snow Canyon
Jan. 16 – @ Canyon View
Jan. 21 – @ Hurricane
Jan. 23 – @ Cedar
Jan. 28 – vs. Dixie
Feb. 4 – @ Pine View
Feb. 6 – @ Snow Canyon
Feb. 11 – vs. Canyon View
Feb. 13 – vs. Hurricane