High school basketball: Quality players, teams in 5A tourney

Published: Sunday, Feb. 26 2012 10:00 p.m. MST

WEST VALLEY CITY — After 501 combined games played and 27,614 total points scored, the regular season of the 5A boys high school basketball season concludes with 16 teams vying for the illustrious state title.

The state's largest classification tournament tips off Tuesday at Maverik Center. at 9:30 a.m. with an opening game between Lone Peak (Region 4, No. 2) and Kearns (Region 2, No. 3).

The Knights and Cougars are followed by: Northridge (Region 1, No. 1) vs. Copper Hills (Region 3, No. 4) at 11:10 a.m., West Jordan (Region 3, No. 1) vs. Fremont (Region 1, No. 4) at 12:50 p.m., Hunter (Region 2, No. 2) vs. Bingham (Region 4, No. 3) at 2:30 p.m., Weber (Region 1, No 2) vs. Brighton (Region 3, No. 3) at 4:10 p.m., American Fork (Region 4, No. 1) vs. West (Region 2, No. 4) at 5:50 p.m., Viewmont (Region 2, No. 1) vs. Riverton (Region 4, No. 4) at 7:30 p.m. and Alta (Region 3, No. 2) vs. Davis (Region 1, No. 3).

West Jordan (19-2), American Fork (18-2) and Lone Peak (18-3) are considered the favorites heading into state week, but with Viewmont (12-9) riding a 10-game win streak, Alta's (16-5) previous postseason experience and Northridge (13-8) winning its first region title since 2002, the 5A classification looks to be deeper than it has in many years.

"With this year's tournament I expect the unexpected a little bit. I think that (it's) just really at a high level this year. I could see some surprises happening from multiple teams, there's just so many good teams," said Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis. "It reminds me a little bit of the second year I coached.

"We had Jackson Emery and we ended up winning it but there was Olympus that had Shaun Green and Payson that had Tyler Newbold, Timpview had (Matt) Mortensen and (Jonathan) Tavernari. I mean, you could just go down the list and there was just a number of really quality teams in state. I think this year resembles that."

Weber (17-4), behind slashing guard Hayden Schenck (19.7 ppg), Copper Hills (12-8), winner of five out the last seven — including taking West Jordan to the wire in a double overtime, 83-79 loss — and Brighton (14-7) with its prolific gunner Brandon Miller (21.8 ppg) only add to the depth of the league.

"There's so many good teams, obviously you're going to have to be playing well. You're going to have to defend and rebound throughout the week because you never know how people are gonna shoot it when you get up there," said West Jordan coach Scott Briggs when asked what the keys were to migrate through the talented field. "It's emotional for people. I think that's what I love especially about that first day. There's so much emotion and passion and sometimes people tend to ride the roller-coaster and go to the extreme in either direction. We're gonna try and avoid that and just stay focused and keep trying to do what we do."

The classification is swarmed with headline individual performers, most notably West Jordan's Jordan Loveridge and Lone Peak's Nick Emery.

Loveridge, a 6-foot-6 senior, ranks fourth in the state and first in 5A in points per game (22.8) and leads the state in rebounds (13.2). The University of Utah commit has eclipsed 30 points twice this season and pulled down 21 rebounds against Cottonwood in January."We're happy that he's on our side when we're going into these contests," said Briggs. "He brings a little bit of the complete package. He's just a monster on the glass. He's such a threat inside at the high school level - being able to post up. Then he does have some range. I'm not sure what more you'd want from a high school kid with the skill level he's got and the experience."

An intriguing matchup on the block will be the focus in the opening round game against Fremont for the Jags. Loveridge and Wolves' Brock Smith will go toe-to-toe.

Smith, 6-foot-5, goes double-dipping with 19.9 points and 10.6 rebounds. In an earlier meeting against West Jordan in December, he dropped 24 points but only managed one board. Loveridge finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds in the 60-46 win.