ST. GEORGE – A new champion will be crowned this basketball season. Morgan, who won the 3A title over Cedar last year, lost to Union in the play-in game Tuesday to open the door for a new state champion this year.
Looking at the field, one of those teams that look’s likely to claim the top spot is the Pine View boy’s basketball team.
The Panthers (19-2, 10-2) are coming off one of their most successful seasons in recent memory, winning 19 games and finishing the regular season as Region 9 champions. Pine View didn’t lose a single non-region game this year and won its first 11 games (a 35 day span) of the season.
The Panthers had a little midlife crisis in the season — losing both games of the season back-to-back, but have since rolled off eight straight wins.
When asked if his team is peaking at the right time, Pine View coach Darrell Larsen smiled and said, “I hope we are.”
“We’ve been doing some good things as of late,” he added, “but I’m not sure if we are playing our best. It’s difficult to tell because of how strong Region 9 is and how familiar we are with each other. But I’m proud of the way we have fought in games and seeing everyone on the team step up for one another when somebody has a bad game.”
Heading into the tournament, the Panthers are a No. 1 seed and will host North Sanpete (10-11, 2-6) Friday at 7 p.m.
While Pine View and North Sanpete haven’t played each other, they do share a couple of common opponents in Emery, Payson and Richfield.
Pine View went 3-0 with an average margin of victory of 16.2 points. North Sanpete went 1-4 with an average margin of loss of 6.6 points per game.
Spencer Applegarth and Brandon Lewis both average nine points per game while Brady Wheeler and Jake Hadley average eight points per game for the Hawks.
“They (North Sanpete) have played 14 kids in 21 games and have started a lot of different ways,” Larsen said. They aren’t as tall as we are, but they have great athletes and they are really physical.”
Looking at everything on paper, the Panthers should run away with this game, but the Panthers aren’t going to overlook anybody is this tournament.
After leading for most of the game against Payson in the quarterfinals last year, the Panthers started to let up and ended up losing to the Lions.
“Payson played a great game and came back to beat us,” Larsen said. “Our kids are hungry this year after last year’s early exit. We have a lot of great leaders on the team and there is definitely more pep in our step, excitement and understanding that we can really do something special this year.”
Pine View will be one step closer towards its goal of a state championship with a win Friday night at The Pit.
Follow Justin Giles on Twitter @Justingiles22.