Saturday, June 30, 2012

Skyline basketball: 2011-12 season recap

Here is the article about the Skyline (Utah) boys basketball season that will be in the team's 2011-12 postseason yearbook.

A year of change smiles on Skyline
New coach brings an old attitude
of winning in breakthrough season

By Bruce Smith

            The 2011-12 season was one of change for the Skyline High School boys basketball program.
            Coach Derek Bunting was back, but leading scorer Jaden Jackson left. As excited as Skyline fans were to see Bunting again, they were disheartened when Jackson, who led the state at 25 points per game the previous year, moved to West Jordan to create a 5A juggernaut there.
            “It was good for the team,” said senior guard DeSean Miller. “We became more of a team, not a one-man show. Everyone stepped up. I liked it. For the overall team, it was better.”
            Skyline finished with a 16-7 record and was 7-3 in Region 7. The Eagles reached the 4A state tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals, where they were beaten by eventual champion Orem.
            “We were fairly consistent, but that’s because we had a lot (five) of seniors,” Bunting said.
            Bunting had already proven he could win at Skyline – and that was when the Eagles were a 5A (larger division) school. In three previous seasons (2006-09), he sported a 39-24 record. The high point came in 2008-09, when the Eagles won their first 11 games en route to an 18-4 mark. Bunting, however, resigned shortly afterward for personal reasons and moved out of the area, but he made it clear that he wanted to eventually return.
            When Bernie Graziano resigned, everything fell into place. However, the players had to quickly learn his “Princeton-style” offense and adjust to playing without their most-talented individual.
            There was a lot of work to do.
            “Everyone on the team had to step up,” Bunting said. “We couldn’t rely on any single individual. The chemistry really developed, and I don’t know if that would have been possible before.”
            Adjustments had to be made quickly. During summer league, the Eagles routinely lost. The players learned the new system quickly using a seven-man rotation. Skyline also benefited from a drop to the 4A ranks (due to the school’s reduced enrollment) and the non-region schedule had included more smaller, but competitive schools.
            Then there was a little bit of good fortune. Early, it came in the name of Garrett England.
            A 6-foot-4 junior, England made a name for himself with several timely baskets that allowed Skyline to win close games. The Eagles had three separate four-game win streaks during the season, finished undefeated at the Steve Hodson Cancer Classic in Cedar City during the Christmas break, and also won a pair of overtime games.
            Until the regular season finale at Herriman, Skyline didn’t lose a game decided by five points or less.
            “Those games went our way and gave the kids confidence,” Bunting said. “We had a lot of experience and that paid dividends.”
            While England got most of the headlines, DeSean Miller became the team leader. He averaged 13.2 points per game, but his quickness and shifty ballhandling allowed him to drive from the perimeter, shoot or find teammates open for easy baskets.
            Miller was named first team all-state by the Salt Lake Tribune, and was one of the top players in Region 7. By virtue of a 59-52 win at Olympus in late January, Skyline became one of the top 4A teams to watch.
            “At Olympus, that was about as good as an environment as I’ve ever been in,” Bunting said. “For us to win there was a significant accomplishment. After that, teams were really prepared to play us.”
            The Eagles went from the underdog to the favorite. Even Jackson, whose West Jordan team attracted the most attention of any school, came to Skyline games to see what was happening.
            A two-game letdown, including a 54-45 home loss to Olympus (when the Titans shot the ball unlike any game all season), put a damper on the season. But it also served as a momentum boost at state, where the Eagles surprised Sky View in the opener.
            “We gave ourselves a tougher road, but our win over Sky View was one of the biggest wins of the tournament.”
            And it may also fuel the Eagles’ future. This time, with few changes going on.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Skyline basketball: Michael Staes profile

In late June, I interviewed Skyline (Utah) basketball player Michael Staes, who also played a big role in the Eagles' state championship run a couple months later. Here is the article that will appear in the Skyline basketball yearbook.

Michael Staes:

He had special talents in two sports
but made his biggest mark in baseball

By Bruce Smith
            Michael Staes played a big part in the Skyline basketball team’s fortunes this year, but the highlight of his sports career came a few months later.
            Staes was a baseball player. No doubt about it. He was a special talent who played three years on the varsity, and he concluded his career just before graduation day by helping the Eagles to the state championship.
            Skyline captured the Region 7 title, and then the 4A crown by rallying to beat Timpanogos 8-7 in the championship game at the Kearns High School field. Bryce Barr’s ground ball with the bases load plated the winning run in the 10th inning.
            The following minutes are just a blur to Staes.
            “Bryce had two strikes on him and hit an outside pitch to second (base),” Staes recalled. “The guy made a diving attempt. He scrambled for it and threw it, but Bryce beat the throw.
            “I was in the dugout, standing on the top step,” he added. “I started screaming and ran on to the field. I almost slipped on the step and ran toward Bryce to jump in the dog pile in centerfield.
            “I was one of the last ones out (of the dugout). I’m not one of the fastest guys and didn’t really jump in it. I was patting guys on the back and I have one of our coaches a big hug. I was in tears … I was so happy. It was just so fun. It was madness.”
            The celebration continued for another 45 minutes on the field and, later, at his friend Travis Norseth’s house. A couple of days later, Staes and his teammates saluted their fellow students at an assembly, where they hoisted the trophy.
            Staes played mostly first and third base for the Eagles and batted nearly .400. The baseball team finished with a 23-7 record and, the way it ended his Skyline sports career was perfect.
            The baseball season started immediately after basketball. Staes was a small (6-foot-3) forward for the Eagles. He also played three years on the varsity basketball team. As a senior, he averaged 5.8 points per game and had a high of 15 points vs. Hunter.
            “The highlight was beating Olympus at their place,” Staes said. “There was a lot of social network (Internet) talk. There was so much hype and it was so much fun to be part of it. It felt more than just a high-school game. The fans really cared who won and beating them and giving our fans and friends the satisfaction of beating Olympus, whom everyone thought was better than us, was fun.”
            Staes, however, felt his best game was at Cedar. He scored just four points, but nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. He also grabbed a key rebound.
            “I felt really good about how I played,” he said. “It was a fun bus ride home. I sat with coach (Ryan) Osterloh, who is a friend, as well as a coach.”
            Staes kept his starting position because he always hustled and was one of the team’s top three-point shooters. He made the big shot at Cedar, but missed one a week later against East.
            “I convinced coach Bunting to have me take the shot, even though Garrett (England) had three game-winning shots before,” Staes said.
            “I have a tendency to have more confidence in my shot than I should,” he added, laughing. “In my infinite confidence, I told (principal Doug) Bingham and then I bricked it. Luckily, DeSean (Miller) got it and put it in.”
            That play was a good description of Skyline’s season. They had several players who could produce when necessary. It showed against Sky View in the first round of the state tournament, which the Eagles won 38-31.
            “That game was big,” Staes said. “Maybe our team and a few of our fans really thought we had a chance. We beat them pretty handily. That was a good memory.”
            Just one of many for Staes this year.
            After graduation, Staes said he planned to continue his baseball career at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Staes has family on the East Coast and several relatives attended the school, including a cousin who will also be there with Staes.
            “I did a showcase in Long Island (N.Y.) last year and met the coach,” he said. “I liked him, and the school. Everything just worked itself out.”

Skyline basketball: DeSean Miller profile

In late June, I interviewed Skyline (Utah) basketball player DeSean Miller, who was instrumental in the Eagles' success this year as they finished 16-7. Here is the article that will appear in the Skyline boys basketball yearbook.

DeSean Miller:

He finally felt at home at Skyline
and he turned around Eagles’ fortunes

By Bruce Smith
            When Jaden Jackson left Skyline High School last year, most people thought the Eagles’ program was in turmoil.
            If that was the case, it didn’t last long.
            Jackson’s departure brought the team closer, starting with DeSean Miller, who new coach Derek Bunting quickly recognized as the player he would build around. The Eagles ended up with a 16-7 record and advanced to the second round of the 4A state tournament, where they lost to eventual champion Orem.
            It was their best season since 2009.
            “It was a huge step up from the previous season,” said Miller. “Losing Jaden and then all of us coming together to make the playoffs. It was a great year.”
            Miller, ironically, had transferred from American Fork a year earlier in order to play with Jackson. The players had been summer-league teammates the year before. Miller actually lived in the Alpine-Highland area, which is nearest to Lone Peak High School.
            “I transferred from Lone Peak to American Fork halfway through my freshman year,” Miller said. “I was ready for a new change. My best friend from Lone Peak (Chase Hansen) transferred to American Fork and a lot of other friends moved over there.”
            If not for a few decisions, Miller could have played on two state championship teams at Lone Peak, a 5A power, or possibly at American Fork, which also had a fine team. He said he occasionally regretted the moves, but that changed when Bunting returned to Skyline, replacing Bernie Graziano, and immediately installed Miller in the lineup.
            “It was pretty clear that DeSean Miller was the guy to run the team," said Bunting. "He was the best ball handler, by far, and had a high basketball IQ. It was his team from the first practice."
            Bunting had a lot of success at Skyline a few years earlier and, after a disappointing junior season, Miller knew his senior year would play a big role in his basketball future.
            Miller had played on Skyline’s football team, but quit late in the season in order to focus on basketball. It ended up being a good move. Miller led the Eagles in scoring at 13.2 points per game. He also topped the team in assists and steals.
            Miller scored in double figures in 19 of Skyline’s 23 games. He had a high of 23 points in the Eagles’ win at Olympus. His ability to use his speed and quickness to get by defenders on the perimeter was instrumental. That left him open to shoot, pass or get fouled. He shot about 70 percent from the free-throw line and forced defenses to focus on him.
            “We were not a one-man team,” Miller said. “I got a chance to distribute the ball and everyone stepped up. I liked it. With Jaden, we would have had more scoring but when he left, I wanted to take that role.”
            At first, junior Garrett England was the benefactor. His three-point shooting accuracy saved the Eagles several times early in the year and his game-winning baskets were among the team’s highlights. Miller also had a chance when he nailed a three-pointer against East in a game Skyline eventually lost 43-42.
            Miller said his best game came in Skyline’s 51-34 win at Murray. The Eagles were coming off a home loss to Herriman and were highly motivated. Miller had 22 points in that game, but it was the way the team played that he remembered most.
            “My assists were up, my three-point shots were good, my passing was good and scoring was great,” he said. “That was when we were at our best. I found my shot early in that game.”
            At the time, the 34 points allowed was also the fewest the Eagles had given up all season. Skyline blew the game open in the third quarter in a place where – traditionally – it has been tough to win.
            “Coach said I was the quickest guy on the court,” Miller said. “He told me to attack the basket hard – every time.”
            Miller also had good memories of the Eagles’ win over Sky View in the first round of the 4A state tournament. Skyline had lost its last two regular-season games and felt like underdogs but came on to win 38-31.
            “It was a great feeling for everyone,” he said. “We came over a big hump. Nobody took any big shots last year except for Jaden.  But me, Garrett and Mike Staes had about 10 points and everyone played together in that game.”
            The success Miller and Skyline had didn’t result in a scholarship, but the door to Miller’s basketball future remained open. He planned to enroll at Marianapolis Prep Academy in Thompson, Conn., to continue his education and hope for a basketball scholarship.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pleasant Grove basketball: Walker Bischoff profile

In late March, I interviewed Pleasant Grove senior Walker Bischoff. He was a really intelligent guy who didn't talk much, but had a deep voice. Here is the article that will appear in the PG 2011-12 boys basketball yearbook.

Walker Bischoff:

Despite limited playing time, he made
the most of his high-school experience

By Bruce Smith

            A couple weeks after the Pleasant Grove boys basketball season ended, Walker Bischoff was the only player still being appreciated for his efforts.
            On March 3, he earned the right to stand near midcourt at the Maverik Center in West Valley City during the championship game. The Vikings’ 4-17 record wasn’t the reason; it was all that he had learned.
            “That was the highlight of my year,” he said. “It was cool to be out there (on the court).”
            During his high-school career, Bischoff earned outstanding grades and on that day joined nine other 5A basketball players named to the all-academic team. He admitted his season didn’t go like he had hoped, but it certainly ended well.
            “I didn’t play as much as I would have liked,” he said. “They were rotating four guys on two positions and I was one of them.”
            Bischoff played on the Pleasant Grove golf team as a freshman and sophomore, but academics were his primary passion. He also enjoyed basketball, however, but coming into this season, not much was expected. Bischoff was one of seven seniors, but only center Alan Hamson had any significant varsity experience.
            Bischoff, however, did play a lot on last year’s junior varsity team and brought something special to this year’s club. Coach Randy McAllister recognized that he was one of the team’s smartest players and, with a young team, he could be counted on to make good decisions on the floor.
            “He was really smart and did everything he could to help us,” McAllister said. “I knew that he was troubled about his playing time, but we did the best we could with the players we had.”
            Bischoff still played in each of Pleasant Grove’s 21 games. He averaged 1.4 points per game and 1.1 rebounds. When he was on the court, he made a difference. He shot a team-high 66.7 percent from the field and made 2-4 three-pointers.
            “I tried to be consistent, lead by example and keep playing hard,” Bischoff said.
            He said he had several good memories of the season, including Pleasant Grove’s road trip to California during the Christmas break. He said time off the court was mostly spent hanging out at the hotel.
            “One night, we walked to a (shopping) mall that was about two miles away,” he said. “That was fun. There weren’t too many girls; mostly old folks.”
            The trip helped the team improve its camaraderie and prepare them for the difficult Region 4 season, which featured eventual champion Lone Peak, as well as powerhouse American Fork and surprise teams like Riverton and Bingham.
            McAllister said Bischoff continued to show improvement throughout the year. Bischoff had his best-scoring efforts late in the season and was rewarded with a chance to start in Pleasant Grove’s “Senior Night” finale against American Fork.
            “I played really well and hit some big shots,” he recalled.
            Bischoff scored five points in that game. Not surprisingly, that also led to his best playing memory.
            “Markee (Jensen) got me a pass and I hit a spot-up three (pointer) that got the lead down to single digits,” he said. “It was in the fourth quarter and the game was pretty exciting at the time.”
            Bischoff said he planned to continue his academic achievements after high school. He said he planned to attend BYU and then leave on an LDS Church mission. He planned to major in accounting or business management.

Pleasant Grove basketball: Spencer Pincock profile

In late March, I went to Pleasant Grove and interviewed PG guard Spencer Pincock. This is the article that will appear in the Vikings' 2011-12 basketball yearbook.

Spencer Pincock:

The thrill of playing with his brother
led him to be one of team’s top players

By Bruce Smith

            Pleasant Grove basketball has always been a family affair for the Pincocks.
            Growing up, Spencer and his younger brother, Forrest, were taught the game by their father. After hundreds of games on outdoor courts and various gyms, the two got a chance to guide the Vikings during the 2011-12 season.
            While they may not have been among the most talented high school players in the state, they were a good combination and coach Randy McAllister was excited to see how well they could replace last year’s leading scorer, his son, Cory McAllister.
            “We had a lot of players who had never played varsity,” McAllister said. “We played a lot of teams that were better than us, but found out quickly that we could play with anyone.”
            “It was a good season … still,” said Spencer, noting the Vikings’ 4-17 record included a lot of close calls. “The numbers don’t show it, but I felt good about it.”
            Spencer averaged 7.6 ppg and 4.3 rebounds. He had a career-best 16 in the Vikings’ win at Jordan and, in fact, most of his best games came in Pleasant Grove victories. He was also the team’s assist leader.
            The main reason Spencer felt good about the season was due to the camaraderie developed with the team, and especially his brother. Many of the guys had played together for several years, and the Pincock brothers had a way of communicating unlike anyone else.
            “I was nervous before the first game, but that’s it,” Spencer said. “It was fun to always know what he (Forrest) was thinking. We could always trust each other on the court. We had our own little language that nobody else (opponents) understood.”
            Almost all of Spencer’s varsity playing time came as a senior. He ended up being the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder and Forrest wasn’t far behind. While most teams struggled early in the year, Pleasant Grove was the anomaly. The Vikings took on eventual 4A champion Orem in the Great Zuke Challenge at Utah Valley University and almost pulled off the upset.
            Pleasant Grove bolted to a 9-1 lead. Eventually, Spencer topped the Vikings with 14 points and Forrest had 10, and each nailed a pair of three-pointers. If not for an Orem basket at the buzzer, the outcome and, perhaps the season, could have been different.
            “We played together and saw each other so much, we all got to be friends,” Spencer said. “We had a lot of chemistry.”
            It grew during the season, and especially on the Vikings’ December road trip to California. Pleasant Grove played four games over the Christmas break at the Maxpreps Holiday Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. The bus ride, hotel living, off-court functions and games against unfamiliar opponents brought the team together.
            “We go somewhere every year,” said McAllister. “I came from California and it’s very valuable. It’s a state-tournament format and the kids can wear shorts and a T-shirt every day. It was good for them.”
            Spencer said the California trip, as well as Pleasant Grove’s 47-43 region victory over Bingham were among his favorite memories. The best, however, was “Senior Night,” the Vikings’ final home game against powerhouse American Fork.
            “Our region was so high-profile that you heard a lot about it,” he said. “All the teams were tough and it was fun playing in all those important games.
            “On Senior Night, there were a lot of emotions and I got a lot of ‘and ones,’” he added. “Other than not winning the game, it was a good way to go out. We had a lot of student support and the place (gym) was filled.
            “My favorite play of the season came that night when I caught a nice pass and put the ball over (American Fork’s) Austin Waddoups and scored. I got fouled, and did a little fist pump after I made the shot.”
            After graduation, Spencer said he would continue to be a Pleasant Grove basketball fan and watch his brother. He planned to attend UVU, where he earned an academic scholarship, and serve an LDS Church mission.

Pleasant Grove basketball: Alan Hamson profile

In late March, I interviewed Pleasant Grove center Alan Hamson. At 7-feet, he was the state's tallest player. He was kind of quiet, but opened up to talk about all of his best basketball memories. This is the article that will appear in the PG 2011-12 boys basketball yearbook.

Alan Hamson:

He was the tallest player, and learned
to play a big role in all of PG’s successes

By Bruce Smith

            When any fan came to a Pleasant Grove basketball game this year, the first thing they had to notice was Alan Hamson.
            At 7-feet tall, he was easily the tallest high-school player in Utah. But he stood out for other reasons. He didn’t play for himself. He was the ultimate teammate.
            “There is this magical thing that happens when kids become seniors, and Alan showed a different maturity and toughness,” said coach Randy McAllister. “He was more vocal, starting to use his elbows and he stands up for himself.”
            Coming into Pleasant Grove, he had just his name and an annoying word that went with it – potential. His parents are well-known for their height and basketball prowess in Utah County, and his older sister, Jennifer, had a storied career at Pleasant Grove and was playing at at BYU.
            Alan had to earn respect – and it wasn’t easy. Even though he was 7-feet, he was still just 175 pounds. As a sophomore, he earned some playing time but scored just six points all year. As a junior, he started every game and bumped his average to six points and six rebounds per game.
            This year was clearly his best. Playing in what most people viewed as the toughest region (4) in the state, he averaged 10.7 ppg and 7.9 rebounds. Just as importantly, his improvement forced opponents to prepare and adjust their games – or suffer the consequences.
            Hamson, however, was mostly a quiet leader. He didn’t toot his own horn, but teammate Spencer Pincock didn’t hesitate, especially after Pleasant Grove’s early season road trip.
            “When we went down to California, Alan swatted some shots,” he said. “It was fun to watch. They (the opponents) didn’t want any part of Alan.”
            When the Vikings returned, nobody else did either (for better or for worse).
            “He was our most-important player,” McAllister said. “He learned that if he got pushed off the block, he could step outside and hit the 15-footer. In practice, he would drain three-pointers but we tried not to promote that because we had other players for that.”
            So, while Hamson never became the ultimate scoring threat at Pleasant Grove, he adjusted his game to help the team best.
            He finished his career as the Vikings’ blocked shots leader. With 123 during as a senior, he probably had more than any other high school team. Only Shawn Bradley, the famous 7-foot-6 star at Emery County who went on to play at BYU and in the NBA, had more.
            "Having Alan back there allows us to do some different things on the perimeter," noted McAllister. "You've got that safety net back there and, if we make a mistake up front, Alan is there to shut it down."
            Those plays also rejuvenated the home fans, created momentum and fueled fast breaks, which led to layups for his teammates. The Vikings may have only finished with a 4-17 record, but there were plenty of good memories created by those plays and Hamson’s teammates loved the creative assists.
            “Nobody taught me how to block shots. It just came natural,” Hamson said. “I tried the swat it (the ball) upward so I could get it myself.”
            Hamson was the lone Pleasant Grove player to earn post-season awards. He was the Vikings’ most valuable player, and was given honorable mention honors on the Deseret News all-state, Provo Herald all-valley and Region 4 teams.
            As a senior, Hamson’s goal was to become more athletic. Growing up, he liked to play all sports, including soccer, swimming and even baseball. In high school, he focused on basketball. Most recently, he worked on improving his speed and developing more-dependable offensive shots.
            Hamson, however, also had to deal with the fact he was still growing. He had a constant battle with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and was scheduled to have surgery after graduation that – supposedly – would make him 7-3. Hamson said he also wanted to go on an LDS Church mission and then, with the added physical maturity, try to play college basketball.
            “There are a lot of teams that will look at him,” McAllister said. “He’s still learning, maturing and growing. If everything comes together, he could have an interesting (basketball) career.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Borah basketball: Zach Cada profile

In early June, I interviewed Zach Cada, the son of Borah basketball coach Cary Cada. He had an interesting way to look at the season ... being the coach's son. Here is the article that will appear in this year's Borah (Idaho) basketball yearbook.

Zach Cada:

Coach’s son relished the season,
and how it ended for both of them

By Bruce Smith

            Zach Cada grew up watching Borah basketball. It was both exciting and sad for him to see it end on March 3, 2011. Fortunately, he was where he wanted to be.
            Cada and four other Borah players had just been asked to come out of the game. They sat on the bench, and leaned back in their chairs knowing that the Lions had a comfortable lead over Post Falls in the 5A state championship game at the Idaho Center.
            “I didn’t know what to think,” Cada recalled. “We were looking at each other and thinking, ‘oh my gosh. Is this really happening?
            “It couldn’t have ended any better. Once that clock ran out, we were bumping each other and saying, ‘we did it.’ We were very excited, but also pretty humble. It wasn’t until they called our names and we shook hands and got the trophy that we started to bounce.”
            Coach Cary Cada felt the same way. The championship was Borah’s first since 2005, but the third for its coach, who also took home state titles in 2004 and 2005 when Zach was still in elementary school. Zach was always a Borah fan, and remembered many winter evenings where he also watched the Lions play.
            Zach played on the junior varsity team last year. This season was the only team he got to play for his dad.
            “Playing for him was a big factor for me,” Zach said. “All the guys on the team I’ve known forever. The best parts were playing with them and playing for my dad. I know it meant a lot to him, too.”
            Afterward, coach Cada admitted the same thing. Zach was used primarily as the team’s “sixth man” during the season. He played in almost every game and averaged 1.3 points per game. His high game was six points against Coeur d’Alene and five points vs. Boise. There were several times where he and Nick Reed contributed three-pointers that helped the Lions gather momentum.
            Coach Cada said it was especially gratifying to see Zach play a bigger role at state.
            “Zach had his best games in the last three games of his career,” coach Cada said. “Winning a state championship with me has always been a goal for him and, as his father, I couldn't have a more rewarding season: Conference champions, District champions, 5A sportsmanship award, state champions, school record 25 wins and all done with my son and some of the finest young men I have ever had the privilege of coaching.
            “Tough to beat.”
            A photograph taken of father and son hugging each other on the court after the championship game said it all.
            “I could tell he was holding back tears,” Zach said. “He usually holds it (his emotions) pretty good.”
            Zach said the three state tournament games were his most memorable.
            “Against Coeur d’Alene, we were all pretty nervous and I hit two three-pointers,” he said. “Against Tikmberline, I had a two-pointer and I had a layup against Post Falls. I played the best defense of my life and I had never been more focused in those games.”
            The championship also likely ended Zach’s playing career. He grew up playing sports, but had to deal with various injury issues. As a senior, he decided to play football again because so many of his friends were on the team and most were excited about playing for new coach Darren Corpus. Cada, however, suffered a concussion in a preseason scrimmage and it drastically limited his playing time.
            “I got into one game after that, but it was against Vallivue,” he said. “That was pretty memorable.”
            In that game, Cada played briefly at defensive end, but was placed directly across from his cousin, Lane Sale.
            “That was a lot of fun,” he said.
            After graduation, Cada said he wasn’t certain about his future. The Cada family owns a large ranch near Midvale, and he also spent a lot of time there growing up.
            “I’m more of an outdoors guy,” he said. “I’d like to work up there and maybe look into going to college.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Borah basketball: Brock Holubetz profile

In early June, I interviewed Borah (Idaho) center Brock Holubetz, who played on the Lions' state championship team. Here's the article that will appear in the team's basketball yearbook.

Brock Holubetz:

Lions’ big man appreciated being challenged
and making this season one to remember

By Bruce Smith

            As much as the Borah boys basketball team would like to believe it was easily Idaho’s best high school team in 2011-12, Brock Holubetz knew better.
            The Lions’ 6-foot-9 senior center admitted the team went through a lot en route to a 25-1 record that included the 5A state championship.
            For Holubetz, and teammates like Gomane Boller, Drue Hall and Ben Tucakovic, the road started in eighth grade, when they combined to lead South Junior High to the Boise City championship. It ended, of course, with Borah’s convincing 49-31 win over Post Falls at the Idaho Center.
            Holubetz said one of his favorite memories was the last minute of that game.
            “Coach (Cary) Cada called a timeout. Our starters were still on the floor and coach pointed to five other seniors and said, ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … go check in.’
            “It was at that point where I realized we had accomplished our ultimate goal. We were state champions,” he said. “We realized it was done. I loved the way coach did it. He didn’t help us off. That was it. It was the state championship, and one of the best games I’ve ever played in.
            “The last minute went by slowly. I was sitting next to Ben and Isaiah (Wright). We were just absorbing everything, looking in the stands and watching the game. That was one of the biggest moments for me.”
            Holubetz played a key role in Borah’s success. Growing up, he was not just big, but athletic. He competed in wrestling, BMX (motocross), cross-country and track and field, but it was basketball where he succeeded the most. As a senior, he averaged 6.4 points per game, 4.0 rebounds and led the team in blocked shots.
            Holubetz was known mostly for his defense, but had a high game of 13 points against Vallivue. His best game? That was easy. He saved it for last.
            Going against two 6-6 players from Post Falls, he had eight points, seven rebounds, a blocked shot and two steals. For his efforts,, which broadcast the game via the Internet, named him and Wright the co-MVPs of the game.
            “It was a fun game,” Holubetz recalled. “I just tried to treat it like any other game. I really didn’t realize I was in the state championship game until I was sitting at my house at about 11:30 in the morning, putting my shoes on.
            “I was getting ready for a game for the last time, and my dad said, ‘you just realized this?’ It was at that point where I knew I had to have a good game.”
            Holubetz always had that kind of potential. He played two seasons on the varsity. In his first game, last year against Bishop Kelly, he scored 14 points and had a time in the third quarter when he scored 10 straight.
            When he was inspired, he was the best big man in the league. However, occasionally he was one of several guys who needed to be “kick started.” Borah had plenty of size, talent and athleticism. However, it wasn’t until the final game where the Lions felt they played a full game.
            Holubetz said that, while he felt Borah had the most talent, it was coaching that got them there.
            “We had a lot of wake-up calls,” he said.
            Unlike most coaches, Holubetz said Cada was mostly soft-spoken, choosing to teach the players instead of inciting fear. Coming into the year, every Borah player knew of the team’s potential and last season’s semifinal loss to Mountain View provided the Lions with a grudge.
            When that wore off, Cada helped them again to remember.
            “There were quite a few halftime talks that inspired us,” Holubetz said. “He would just freak out to try to get us to play better.
            “There were several times … Boise, Meridian … and I remember we were playing Eagle in the district semifinal. We were down at half. We came in (the locker room) and coach was just livid. He was screaming at us, telling us to get it going.
            “But from there, everything clicked together. We started to play really well.”
            Borah’s success helped Holubetz attract attention from a few schools. He accepted a scholarship to play basketball at Wenatchee Valley (Wash.) College. He said he hoped to start toward an education degree and perhaps play elsewhere later.
            “It was a great season, and one I’ll remember forever,” he said. “I hope we’re not just remembered for winning the championship, but for being guys who would just make things happen.”

Friday, June 8, 2012

Borah basketball: 2011-12 season recap

In early April, I interviewed Borah (Idaho) boys basketball coach Cary Cada, and we talked about the Lions' remarkable state championship season. Here is the article that will appear in the team's postseason yearbook.

A championship season

Lions’ special group of basketball athletes
finish a remarkable run with another 5A crown

By Bruce Smith
            Borah High School opened in 1958 and quickly became known as a football school. A little over 50 years later, it’s remarkable how times have changed.
            This year, it was guys like Ben Tucakovic, Isaiah Wright, Braden Corpus, coach Cary Cada and several others who helped it along.
            The Lions secured the school’s 10th state basketball title in early March, using a combination of height, athleticism and a strong defensive effort to beat Post Falls at the Idaho Center in Nampa.
            “It’s still a grand feeling,” said Cada, who won his third at Borah since taking over in 1995. “There was no turning point; that’s what was weird about it. We learned to be stronger, tougher and bigger as a team and stepped it up when we had to.
            “The kids came in dedicated to every practice and every game.”
            Borah’s accomplishments during the year were many. The Lions won a school record 25 games, including 23 in a row. They captured the Southern Idaho Conference title and district tournament. They missed what could have the school’s first perfect season by only one point. They won the Griffin Cup for the fourth straight year vs. Capital and the school took home the 5A sportsmanship award at the state tourney.
            Tucakovic was the top player. The 6-foot-6 senior averaged 15.2 points per game and 7.3 rebounds and was named the SIC’s top player. Wright averaged 12.0 ppg and led the team in steals and assists. He made the first team, despite being just a sophomore. Both players also were on the all-state squad.
            “Defense was the reason for our success all year,” said Cada, whose team gave up an average of 40.6 points per game and held Post Falls to just 31 in the state championship game. “Post Falls was our best game. That was a game where the kids came in and just knew they weren’t going to lose.
            “This was a complete team,” Cada added. “We had three players who could lead us in scoring, but if one struggled, someone else would step up. Nobody cared about the credit. They were best friends. Our team chemistry was huge.”
            Early on, the Lions weren’t the team to beat. Defending champion Mountain View was the favorite, and handed Borah its only loss back on Dec. 9. But after the Lions won the rematch, there was little doubt. Borah  reached the postseason by dominating most others.
            They beat their opponents by an average of 14 points per game, yet virtually everyone felt it could have been worse. When they got rolling, no Idaho team could stop them. However, it was only at the end of the season when they reached their peak.
            “I told them that if they starved, they would starve to death,” Cada said. “If we got teams 10-12 points down, we would back off. We couldn’t smell blood in the water.”
            That started to change in the postseason. A rebound basket by Corpus saved the Lions in the opener of the district tournament, but they were all business in whipping Mountain View for the title. Once again at state, they got a scare in the first round but took care of Timberline and then finished it off.
            Cada said the football team’s turnaround (a 5-4 record and its first winning season in 17 years) got the school year off to a good start.
            “Our team’s best game was Post Falls,” said Corpus, who was also the football team’s quarterback. “We just dominated them completely. I thought it would be a lot closer, but we took it to them.”
            Even Post Falls agreed.
           "We gave it all we had, we just got outplayed," said Post Falls senior Marcus Colbert, who earned the state’s MVP award. "Borah played a good game, and they hit shots. They just flat-out beat us."

Borah basketball: Braden Corpus profile

In early June, I interviewed Borah's Braden Corpus. He was one of the school's best athletes and competed in three sports. Here is the article that will appear in this year's Borah basketball yearbook.

Braden Corpus:
Perhaps Borah’s best athlete, he let
his accomplishments do the talking

By Bruce Smith

            For Braden Corpus, actions are louder than words. What really stood out during his athletic career at Borah High School is what he accomplished.
            Corpus was an athlete, and a key figure in three sports – football, basketball and track & field. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he was a durable player who could do everything, except perhaps celebrate. He had many opportunities, but just chose not to.
            “I was just happy to be representing Borah,” he said. “(Celebrating) has never been my style. I don’t like to show it (emotion) when I play.”
            Corpus had many highlights in his Borah career. He was a two-year starter at quarterback. As a senior, his dad, Darren, became the head coach and the two combined to lead the Lions to a 5-4 record – its first winning season in 17 years. He was the team’s MVP and named first team all-SIC.
            Braden passed for over 1,900 yards and 16 touchdowns and – amazingly – never had an interception. He was also the team’s leading rusher.
             “In my earlier years, I threw a lot of interceptions and I didn’t like that feeling,” he said. “Each year, I threw less interceptions.”
            “It’s a stat I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed before,” said coach Corpus. “I’m sure it’s a school record, but it’s never been kept. It’s a great accomplishment, though. No doubt about it.”
            Braden also had sprinter-like speed. He was among Borah’s fastest players (11.17 in the 100 meters and 23.4 in the 200) and was a threat on every snap. As a senior, he ran for 12 touchdowns, which meant he had a hand in 28 of the Lions’ 38 scores.
            Despite their records, the Lions didn’t make the postseason. But Corpus said he didn’t believe that would be the case on the first day of basketball practice.
            “The whole year we thought we would underachieve if we didn’t win the state championship,” Corpus said.
            Corpus said his role was to play defense and get rebounds. He averaged 6.2 points per game and was the team’s second-leading rebounder (4.6/game). He had a high game of 14 points in the season opener against Kuna and was instrumental in several other game. The most memorable were:
            * - Against Eagle in the first round of the 5A District 3 tournament, he rebounded Isaiah Wright’s shot and scored as the buzzer sounded as the Lions secured a berth at state with a 43-41 overtime victory.
            * - In the first round of the state tournament vs. Coeur d’Alene, he made one of the game’s most-important plays when he used his strong right arm to rifle a pass downcourt to Ben Tucakovic, who had gotten behind the defense, and that layup secured the win.
            Ironically, the play had never worked before that night.
            Corpus was on the bench when the buzzer sounded ending the Lions’ 49-31 win over Post Falls in the championship game. Coach Cary Cada brought him out to a huge ovation with about four minutes left.
            “It was a pretty crazy (scene),” said Corpus. “It didn’t really set in until later. I couldn’t believe it happened. At the time, nothing really hit me. Everyone was all happy and running around the court. I didn’t do as much as others.”
            He soaked it in, but shortly afterward began to focus on what he would do next.
            Football is his favorite sport, and he joined teammate Cody McKague in earning a scholarship to Weber State University. Corpus also had offers from Eastern Washington and the University of Idaho, but liked the Weber campus and its coach, John L. Smith, who was the many who offered the scholarship on Corpus’ visit there.
            “I always thought I would get a college scholarship, but going into my senior year I didn’t have one,” Corpus said. “Weber started getting interested in me halfway through the season. They watched a game, but then I never heard from them again until January.”
            Weber also indicated that it wouldn’t try to move Corpus to another position. Corpus accepted the scholarship immediately, and he was able to rest easier, although it was difficult to notice because of his normal laid-back attitude.
            Shortly after graduation, Corpus left for Weber State and planned to spend much of his summer there, preparing for the upcoming season. Like in high school, he will likely let his accomplishments do the talking.

About Me

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I am the author of Matchup, which provides yearbooks to high school sports teams, commemorating their seasons.