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High school boys basketball: Defending champs favored again in most classifications

Published: Monday, Nov. 19 2012 7:05 p.m. MST

Just a few days removed from Timpview's dramatic double-overtime victory over Mountain Crest in the final high school football game of the season, it's time to start talking hoops.

Yes, the high school boys basketball season gets underway today with 25 games around the state.

It could be the year of repeat state champions, as four of last year's five title-winners have been voted by the coaches as preseason No. 1s in their respective classifications in overwhelming fashion.

Here's a class-by-class look at the teams to beat during the 2012-2013 season:

Class 5A

While Lone Peak was still cutting down the nets at the E Center following last year's ridiculously easy 30-point title-game victory over Brighton, coach Quincy Lewis was asked if the Knights had the potential to be even better next year.

He didn't allow himself to say anything he might regret, and simply said, "each year is much, much different."

It's hard to imagine Lone Peak not being better, however. With a returning nucleus of Nick Emery, T.J. Haws and Talon Shumway — who combined to averaged 48.8 points per game last season — and the addition of BYU-bound, 6-foot-9 center Eric Mika, the Knights are the obvious front-runner in 5A this season.

Even the national publications are jumping on the Lone Peak bandwagon. MaxPreps has the Knights ranked No. 6 nationally in its preseason rankings.

The Knights will have a chance to prove they're the real deal with a brutal schedule chock-full of nationally ranked programs.

On Dec. 1, Lone Peak faces No. 13 Proviso East, Ill., in Chicago. On Jan. 12, it faces No. 5 Chester, Pa., at the Brandon Jennings Invitational in Milwaukee. On Jan. 21, it faces No. 12 St. Anthony, N.J., in Springville, Mass.

If those tests weren't daunting enough, Lone Peak will be participating in the City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla., on Dec. 19-22. The tournament features 10 of the top 25 teams in the MaxPreps preseason Top 25, and Lone Peak opens with No. 23 Callaway, Miss.

When the Knights return home, you can bet in-state teams will be anxious to pull off an upset. Realistically, though, everyone might be playing for second place.

A year ago, Lone Peak had legitimate challengers in West Jordan and American Fork, but both schools graduated all their starters.

Last year's runner-up Brighton, followed by Riverton, Davis and Alta, round out the preseason Top 5 in 5A.

For Brighton and its three returning starters, it won't have to wait long to try to avenge last year's blowout championship loss. The Bengals travel to Lone Peak on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Class 4A

It took 56 years for Orem to win its first boys basketball title in school history, but the school's second title could come much quicker.

Just like everyone might be playing for second in 5A, the same might be true in 4A. The Tigers return four starters from their 24-1 state championship team, including 4A MVP Zach Hunsaker and BYU-bound junior Dalton Nixon.

Last year's 4A runner-up, Olympus, graduated all five starters, while semifinalist Bountiful graduated three of its five starters.

Despite the lack of experience, Olympus coach Matt Barnes likes his team heading into the final season in the school's itty-bitty gym.

"Not very big again, so we'll have to rely on defense and shooting the ball better from outside than we did last year," Barnes said. Really like my team this year and I am very excited to see how they come together this season."

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