SOUTHERN UTAH – Region 9 will be well represented in the Utah State 3A high school playoffs with both boys’ and girls’ basketball teams making the cut to play at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Center on Thursday, Feb. 24.
In the boys’ tournament, 13th-ranked Desert Hills High School and Cedar High School will be playing. Desert Hills will take on Union High School at 11:10 a.m., while the Redmen take on the 7th-ranked Wasatch High School Wasps immediately following the conclusion of the Desert Hills game.
The Desert Hills Thunder were preparing for the Huntsman Center atmosphere by holding team practice at Burns Arena at Dixie State College.
“When you’re in a regular gym sometimes the depth perception is a little different,” Desert Hills coach Steve Melessa said. “You don’t have like a wall right there like you do in most high school gyms.”
Melessa said the court is also longer in college arenas, so he wanted his kids to have a chance to practice on a longer court for when they play at the Utah campus.
“Here, of course, you’ve got red seats,” Melessa said of DSC’s Burns Arena seats. “That’s what we’ll have at the U.”
Melessa said he isn’t telling his players anything different for the upcoming tournament. He wants them to be comfortable and just continue having the same success they’ve had this season. The Region-champion Thunder are on a 10-game winning streak with a 19-3 overall record.
Union comes into the quarterfinals with an 8-12 record. It defeated Juab High School in the first round of the playoffs to earn a spot in Salt Lake City.
“You can’t look ahead, which some people have the tendency to do,” Melessa said. “Coaches fight against that. You try to get [the players] to focus on the team you’re playing.”
While the Thunder focus on Union, the Redmen head to Salt Lake City trying to upset Wasatch. However, Cedar is no slouch with an overall record of 18-3, having defeated Bear River High School 72-57 in the first round last weekend.
“They’ve got as good a chance at getting Wasatch as anybody else,” Melessa said. “It’ll be an interesting matchup.”
Wasatch heads into the tournament with a 20-2 record. The Wasps are led by their senior guard Mike Brown, who is averaging 20 points a game.
In the women’s tournament, Region 9 is represented by Cedar and Hurricane High School. Cedar will take on Carbon High School, who has an 18-1 record. That game is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. Hurricane will face Delta High School in the nightcap, beginning at 9 p.m.
“There’s many teams up there—it’s just kind of who puts together three good games to be right there,” Melessa said. “Let’s have fun and hopefully focus on basketball.”