ST. GEORGE — Crimson Cliffs enters year No. 2 of its existence. In its sophomore campaign, the boys team will look to make significant strides and establish itself not only as the school’s premier athletic program, but a top-tier group in the region and state as well. The girls team is a lot younger and is still in the early stages of building a program, but expects to take steps forward in 2021.
Here are the previews for the Mustangs basketball teams in Region 9 play.
The Mustangs exploded out of the gate in the preseason, racking up points and beating everybody. They were said to be a wild card, but no one expected an undefeated preseason in just their second season. In a Region 9 that was already crowded with talent, space got a little more limited.
Crimson Cliffs is turning heads and starting to get lumped in with the top-tier teams in the region. The Mustangs led 4A RPI on Sunday entering region play.
“It’s going to be a dogfight trying to get Crimson, Dixie, Desert Hills,” Pine View head coach Ryan Eves said. “They’ve got some players. They’re putting up all kinds of points. They’ve got three guys that can flat-out shoot it.”
The Mustangs averaged nearly 80 points a game through their undefeated eight-game preseason. They bottomed out at 60 points against Richfield, which allowed more points only to Dixie and Real Salt Lake Academy in their pre-regional slate. Crimson Cliffs topped at 88 on Dec. 10 against American Salt Lake Academy, its second game of the day. It has five players with more than 70 points and three with more than 100 through eight games.
Senior Trei Rockhill and junior Hudson Hawes have been enormous weapons from the guard position. The duo has combined to land 56 of their 117 3-pointer attempts for a success rate of 47.9% and 168 points between them from beyond the arc alone. Altogether they account for 277 of the team’s 630 points.
Rockhill is 33-for-66 on 3-pointers and 14-for-15 on free throws. Even if the two guards are managed, senior forward Cole Sampson has played a flex role, with some post play in addition to a 15-for-35 from the perimeter to give him 112 points. Those three simply make shots and are a huge reason for not just the team’s 53% field goal success rate but its overall success as well.
A pair of sophomores, Brock Felder and Jordan Eaton, has cemented the post giving the shooters room to shoot and more options. It’s a team effort and a chemistry that has built up to create a successful team before its second season even begins.
“It all comes down to just how well we’re playing together,” Crimson Cliffs head coach Kasey Winters said. “Even with the short amount of time we’ve had together, they’re playing really well together. That’s what put us in a position to be where we’re at. There are some teams still trying to figure out how to play together.
“It’s a testament to these kids and how bad they want to win and play the right way. They have done a really good job of gelling and meshing together.”
The Mustangs went 7-7 in Region 9 play and lost two more games than they won overall in their inaugural season. Winters said his team appreciates winning because they were on the losing end more often than not last year, and it’s helped them bond together. They have locker room traditions, including singing a Crimson Cliffs-modified version of the old football song, “I’d Rather Be a Bastard than a Yorkshireman.” They’ve gotten to do their traditions eight times already this season, and there will undoubtedly be more opportunities in the near future if they keep finding ways to make baskets.
Winters said they still have some work to do on defense. It remains to be seen how sustainable the Mustangs’ shooting prowess is. As it stands right now, they appear ready to make more than their share of noise in a strong Region 9.
“To say where I think we’re going to finish, I don’t know,” Winters said. “Realistically, it could be anywhere. We just want to compete. We feel like we can compete with anyone and give anyone our best shot on any night. That’s what it comes down to, just being ready for really good teams and putting your best game out on the court every Wednesday and Friday and seeing where it gets you.”
The Mustangs give their first shot to Pine View at home on Wednesday.
The Crimson Cliffs girls team has not had the same breakout success as the boys, but is still preparing to take steps forward in the program with a young core that will only get better as it reaches its upper classes.
For now, it will be an extensive learning experience in the deep end of the pool, with hopefully some wins along the way.
“I’m really just excited we get to have a season and these girls get to play. We are excited to keep improving as we move forward,” Crimson Cliffs head coach KaCee McArthur said. “Our team is still young. Every win is a huge win.”
There are no seniors listed on the MaxPreps roster for Crimson Cliffs. There are only four juniors. You have to go down five columns on the leaderboard to find an upperclassmen in the team’s point leaders. It is a team of youth that is going to see a trial by fire in Region 9.
Sophomore Riann Gines has been the primary scorer with 59 points. A pair of freshmen, Kenadee Richey and Ashtin Hansen, have stepped up to support her from the guard position. Richey is second on the Mustangs with 51 points and Hansen has just one less through six preseason contests. Richey also tallied 24 off the glass, third on the team and recorded 12 steals to lead Crimson Cliffs.
Taryn Searle, a sophomore guard move-in from Montana, is averaging 12.5 points a game but only played two preseason contests.
Last season’s leading scorer for the Mustangs Brooklyn Winget returns for her junior season. She has scored 16 points in a limited three games so far this season after being the only Mustang to reach triple digits a year ago with 194.
Other returning juniors include Skyler Sherratt, Whitley Stookey and Ashlyn Vought.
The Mustangs have already doubled their win total from their inaugural season, just by winning two preseason contests. Their 2-4 record is nothing to write home about, but it is a program that is still developing. While the boys team benefited from some upper-class talent infusion when Crimson Cliffs opened, the girls team remains young. But that also means it’s moldable.
In two years, McArthur will likely be able to look forward to a roster helmed by a senior version of Gines and junior-class Richey and Hansen and more pieces that they’ll have more say in developing. That doesn’t help them this year, but it may help ease some of the losses the team will encounter.
Talent is there and they should be able to find their first Region 9 win after losing all 14 regional games last season. For a program in its sophomore year, anchored by sophomore players, progress is the key.
The Mustangs open with a tall order, hosting Desert Hills on Tuesday.
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