ST. GEORGE – Change, and mystery. Those were the most common words heard at the Region 9 basketball Media Day at Dixie State University Monday afternoon.
Change is prominent for two reasons: Canyon View, which won Region 12 the past two seasons, is back in Region 9 for the foreseeable future. And the entire region has been promoted into the 4A classification, with potential future foes like Orem, Sky View and Lehi to look forward to.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the expectations that Desert Hills will be very good once again. The Thunder went 9-1 in region play last season, winning the league crown and finishing in the top four in state. But Desert Hills lost seven seniors off of that team, including dynamic scorer Logan Hokanson.
“It’s a great compliment to our program to be so highly thought of,” D-Hills coach Wade Turley said. “Steve Melessa built a strong foundation and we have high expectations and high demands of our players. We want our players to be held accountable for that.”
The voting was very close at the top. The Thunder edged Canyon View as the favorites to win the crown by just two points (67-65). In fact, the Falcons actually had two more first-place votes (6-4) than the Thunder. But Canyon View also was picked to fifth and sixth on a couple of ballots. Not one of the 11 media and coach voters picked Desert Hills lower than third.
Dixie, which went 8-2 in region last season, was picked third, followed by Hurricane, Pine View, Snow Canyon and Cedar (see chart below).
Coaches and media were also asked to pick the top five (or more) impact players in the region. Canyon View guard/forward Brantzen Blackner, who was the two-time player of the year in Region 12, was the only player on all 11 ballots and is the consensus Region 9 preseason Player of the Year.
Blackner averaged 19.0 points a game last season and tallied 11.8 points a game his sophomore season. All totaled, he has scored 897 points for coach Rob Potter during his high school career, and has made 106 3-pointers. In last season’s state tournament, Blackner averaged 25.3 points a game. The Falcons were 16-11 last season.
“The spotlight is certainly going to be on Brantzen this year,” Potter said. “He had a great year last year, but teams know that and they’re going to be aware that they need to stop him.”
Two players, Hurricane’s Jackson Last and Snow Canyon’s Braden Baker, were on 10 of the 11 ballots.
Last, who plays primarily point guard for the Tigers, averaged 14.3 points and 3.2 assists a game last season. His monster game at the end of the regular season last winter (32 points, four 3-pointers) helped lift Hurricane into the state playoffs.
“Jackson started every game last year and played a lot as a sophomore,” Hurricane coach Todd Langston said. “He led our team in pretty ,much every category except scoring last year, and he was only a point behind Josh Parker in that stat. We’re expecting a big year out of Jackson.”
Baker was one of the bright spots in a dismal inaugural year for Snow Canyon head coach Jamison Sorenson. The Warriors went just 1-9 in region, but Baker produced plenty of highlight material in averaging 15.2 points a game. He is the key cog on a team that actually returns most of its starters from last season.
“Unlike most of the teams in the region, we return almost a full roster from last year,” Sorenson said. “Braden was a joy and a pleasure to coach last year. No one really knew about him. But they know about him now and I’m sure teams will gear their defense to try and stop him.”
The other two preseason first-teamers are a pair of guards – Desert Hills’ Tyler Marz and Cedar’s Ethan Boettcher.
Marz, at 6-foot-6, has a body like a center or power forward. But the senior, whose twin brother Ryan is also on the team, came off the bench to average about two points a game for the Thunder. He has shown a penchant for shooting the ball outside and for driving to the basket.
“Tyler has a lot of skills and has worked very hard to get ready for this season,” Turley said. “He will stretch defenses, but he also rebounds and can post up.”
Boettcher, the son of a coach who just finished playing for the playoff-worth Cedar football team, is one of two returning starters for the Redmen. He injured his finger late in the football season, something he is dealing with.
“In the past, Ethan has just been a shooter for us,” Cedar coach Russ Beck said. “This has forced him ti realize he can do a lot of other things to help the team besides shoot 3-pointers – play defense, rebound. Football has also given Ethan a toughness to his game.”
The second team, players receiving at least two votes (but less than five) in the balloting, includes Dixie’s Tanner Cuff, D-Hills’ Tucker Peterson, Canyon View’s Joey Lambeth, Dixie’s Carson Bottema and Snow Canyon center Joey Robertson.
A pair of newcomers received votes – Jack O’Donnell, a move-in to Pine View from New York state, and Parker Hyde, a 6-foot-4 point guard move-in to Snow Canyon from the state of Texas. Other honorable mention players include Cedar’s Dallin Grant, Pine View’s Michael Moten, DH’s Trey Allred, Hurricane’s Reagan Marshall and Snow Canyon Bryson Childs and Austin Staheli.
Region 9 Preseason Coaches/Media Poll (team/points/1st votes)
1. Desert Hills 67 (4)
2. Canyon View 65 (6)
3. Dixie 51 (1)
4. Hurricane 43
5. Pine View 37
6. Snow Canyon 32 (1)
7. Cedar 15
Region 9 Preseason All-Region Teams (player/team/votes)
Brantzen Blackner, CV (MVP) 11
Jackson Last, HU, 10
Braden Baker, SC, 10
Ethan Boettcher, CD, 5
Tyler Marz, DH, 5
Tanner Cuff, DX, 4
Tucker Peterson, DH, 4
Joey Lambeth, CV, 2
Carson Bottema, DX, 2
Joey Robertson, SC, 2
Dallin Grant, CD
Parker Hyde, SC
Michael Moten, PV
Trey Allred, DH
Jack O’Donnell, PV
Bryson Childs, SC
Austin Staheli, SC
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