1A boys state tourney wide open with no clear-cut favorite

Published: Monday, Feb. 27 2012 11:00 p.m. MST

Eric Jessen claims he loves the Region 20 Tournament.

But even its fans acknowledge it sure can complicate the 1A State Tournament seeding.

Just like their female counterparts did two weeks ago, the Bryce Valley boys basketball team won a share of the region title — the girls won it outright — and owned a No. 1 ranking heading into the region's seeding tournament.

A less-than-perfect performance at the Region 20 Tournament saw them finish in fourth place – just like the girls.

"I'm an old traditionalist," said Coach Jessen with a laugh. "I grew up in Piute. I love the region tournament. It's a great thing for the fans; it's a great atmosphere. It's very close to the intensity at the state tournament."

The gym is packed, the play is physical. A good time is had by all — except for those trying to figure out state tournament seeding.

"We're going to have a tough matchup with Duchesne because of their physical play," he said.

Sometimes doing well in the region tournament has been as much trouble as dropping to a four seed.

"Last year we won it and ended up in a tough matchup with Duchesne," he said of the double-overtime game which Bryce Valley won. And then they lost to Liahonna in the quarterfinals. "Two years ago when we won the (1A title), we wanted the No. 3 spot. It was a better for our strengths."

Regardless, this year's state tournament promises to be exciting, as no team is a heavy favorite.

And just like the girls (who played and lost to Rich), the boys of Bryce Valley will take on a top-seeded team in Duchesne. The fourth-ranked Eagles (18-3) went undefeated in Region 21 and return most of last year's team.

The Eagles are led by senior guard Mike Dye, who scored 10.2 points per game, Trevon Spencer, a senior forward who scores 8.8 ppg, Braiden Despain, a senior forward who averages seven ppg, and Macoy Young, a senior guard who adds 6.6 ppg.

Part of the problem for the Mustangs in the region tournament is they couldn't simply rely on their ability to score. The team scores the third-most points in 1A, but have only the 10th-best defense in the classification.

"We need to fix a few little things," said Jessen, who acknowledged the region tournament could be a good wake-up call. "If we handle it the right way, it could be good. We weren't playing as good a defense as we thought we were. We haven't had a lot of close games; we were out-scoring people, so we didn't play lock-down defense like we should."

The Mustangs are led by Jake Pearson, a senior forward who scores 14.5 ppg, Braxton Syrett, a junior guard who averages 13 ppg, and Eddie Dunham, a senior forward who averages 12.2 ppg.

Second-ranked Piute had just one region loss, but finished second in the Region 20 seeding tournament.

The T-birds will have a tough first-round draw with Rich High. Piute has the third-best defense in the classification, which will make them tough during the tournament.

The squad is led by Ty Jessen, a senior forward who averages 12 ppg, Taylor Allen, a senior center who averages 10.9 ppg and Cash Newby, a senior guard who averages 10.6 ppg.

Fifth-ranked Green River went 10-0 in Region 19 play and will take on the winner of the Wendover/Valley play-in game on Tuesday.

The Pirates are led by Justin Johnson, a senior forward who averages a jaw-dropping 34.4 points per game, Erick Mendez, a senior forward who averages 11.6 ppg, and Spencer Marshall, a sophomore guard who averages 7.6 ppg.