ST. GEORGE — The Snow Canyon Warriors basketball teams may both be two of the bigger sleepers in Region 9 play.
The boys team showed an ability to score with the best of them in the preseason, at one point knocking down 18 3-pointers in a single game. They also have sophomore phenom Lyman Simmons, named one of the region’s preseason MVPs.
The girls team replaced a large portion of its team, but has talent to fill in the gaps. They also have a move-in recovering from major surgery but still averaging double digits a game.
Here are the outlooks for Warriors basketball in 2021 Region 9 play.
Snow Canyon basketball is looking to make strides as big as Lyman Simmons in a crowded Region 9 this season.
The Warriors finished a distant eighth in region play a year ago. This year, they’ll aim to break into the top half and possibly even the top three. An ever-maturing and growing core gained some key depth and continue to improve. A region preseason co-MVP combined with legitimate threats from the outside will give Snow Canyon the ability to leap up the standings this season.
It all goes through the six-foot, eight-inch sophomore Simmons. He led the Warriors in scoring, rebounding and blocking through the preseason, eclipsing 30 points twice in eight games. Snow Canyon wasn’t playing exclusively small teams that couldn’t match his size either; Simmons’ preseason-high 32 points came against 6A Cyprus, the team’s only preseason loss. His 19.6 points per game and 9.3 boards per game had him averaging nearly a double-double.
Simmons also distributes too, to a lesser extent. He has 1.5 assists per game so far. That number may go up as the Warriors consistently see similar-sized teams that will have more familiarity and ability to compete with him in the post. The Warriors are just as lethal from the outside, though.
“Whether he’s spacing and drawing two guys to him, that’s a big part of our offense,” Snow Canyon head coach Doug Meacham said of Simmons. “He’s getting better and better each game at finding open guys when he’s doubled. And he’ll keep getting better at that, and that’ll keep making our threes better. It’s fun to have a guy like that who’s starting to see the game.”
Brenton Childs, Zak Call and Kaleb Anderson-Foreman add additional size in the paint.
The guards, led by Lincoln Polatis and incomer Blake Munson, have the ability to do just as much damage as Simmons at times. They have the ability to shoot from distance, dropping a likely-school-record 18 from the arc in an 83-48 win over Kanab on Dec. 10. Polatis landed seven of those 18.
Football player Will Warner and baseball player Isaac Lyon have had some catching up to do in preseason, but Meacham says they’ll be integral to the guard rotation, as will be tall and lanky Walker Morrison. Combined with Simmons, a talented group of guards give the Warriors scoring options inside and out.
“I’m impressed with our guards, for the most part, taking care of the ball,” Meacham said. “We’re going to get pressured and they’re not speeding us up. There’s been moments in preseason where we’ve had those things happen. But for the most part, they’re understanding to play within themselves.”
The Warriors went 7-1 through preseason play, playing two class 5A and one class 6A team. The other four contests were against lower classifications. It remains to be seen how a team that struggled in Region 9 to a 4-10 record last season will compete returning much of the same core. That core is a year older, a year bigger and a year wiser. Will they be the favorites to dethrone Dixie? Probably not. Will they surprise some people and climb into the upper half of the standings? Probably.
Head coach Dan Roden had one of the taller orders of Region 9 coaches coming into the 2021 campaign: replacing seven seniors and four starters.
“It’s tough because you’re doing new things, but at the same time it can be rewarding,” Snow Canyon head coach Dan Roden said. “We’re turning that corner, starting to see that light.”
Two constants from a season ago are guards Tyler Mooring and Taylan Whitehead who both played more than 10 minutes a game last season. They are the only players from last year’s roster to do so still on the team.
Mooring has been the team’s engine, controlling the paint and shooting from the outside when she has to. She scored 51 points in the preseason.
Natalie Olson has thus far been the team’s primary 3-point shooter, scoring 10 of the team’s 26 total through the first six games. Her 69 points led the Warriors in the early going.
“She’s always the one that’s aggressive,” Roden said of Olson. “She’s willing to shoot. We’re kind of counting on her to score this year.”
Whitehead is the main distributor from the point.
The most intriguing player, Ebony Lealao, has only played two games to this point. Coming off an ACL tear, the move-in from 5A Highland still has limited mobility, but that hasn’t stopped her from posting 32 points in two games.
“Good shooter and she’s got a good feel for the game,” Roden said. “It’s going to take some time. We’re glad she’s here.”
The Warriors only won a single game in the preseason: a 47-41 win over Kanab on Dec. 15. After a share of blowouts to start the season, the team got within six of Richfield on Dec. 11, a game Roden credits for starting to turn the corner. Snow Canyon played within four points of 5A Payson on the 17th.
With the two-week shutdown in November and all the other complications from COVID-19, the new-look Warriors have had little time to get organized. There are talented pieces there. As far as how they’ll gel and work together, and if they can work as a unit in time to be competitive in Region 9, it’s unknown.
But Roden has expectations for his squad.
“The girls are going to work their butts off,” Roden said. “I know they will. They’re going to play solid defense, that’s an expectation we work on almost every day. Eventually, we’re going to take care of the basketball and take good shots.
“If we get to that point where it’s consistent all the way through, we have pretty good chances to do well.”
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