With the first round of the 2A boys basketball state tournament tipping off at Orem High School on Saturday, Gunnison basketball coach Ben Hill is looking forward to taking in a few games.
"I'm curious to see how the regions match up with each other," he said. "There are some newer schools, there are some schools from the southern regions that we haven't seen yet. It will be fun to see how everything comes together."
Of course, the Bulldogs' coach is also eager to coach a game. His team, the second-seeded crew out of Region 16, will take on Richfield, Region 15 No. 3, in the 1:30 p.m. contest. It is a team Gunnison defeated, 53-41, when the two met at the end of December.
"We are very excited to go in where we are, as a No. 2 seed," Hill added. "It's better than we have been in a while, and we're happy with that."
Gunnison has lost in the first round each of the last three years. It is a trend Hill and his leaders — seniors Colby Caldwell, Lafe Christensen, Braden Harris, and Nik Roberts — are hoping to put an end to.
"(Caldwell) is the one who makes things go," Hill said of the point guard who, at 17.57 points per game, leads the team and is fourth in 2A in scoring. He added that Christensen is the team's defensive stopper while Harris and Roberts are key to the inside game.
The first game of the day is a matchup between Emery (13-7, 5-3) and Manti (13-8, 6-4). Both teams, as well as Gunnison (14-7, 6-4) and Richfield (11-8, 4-4), are all on the same side of the bracket and have the potential to make a run to the state championship game. However, for two of the teams, the tournament will end a week early.
The far-and-away favorites are Wasatch Academy and South Sevier. The former is ranked No. 1 in 2A and No. 10 in the statewide poll, and its only loss of the season was to 3A's second-ranked Judge Memorial. Meanwhile, the latter is the second-ranked team in 2A, boasts the state's top scorer in Race Parsons, who averages 27.9 points per game, and have lost three games, all to 4A and 5A teams.
Wasatch Academy (21-1, 10-0) will meet San Juan (11-10, 3-5) on Saturday at 5 p.m. and South Sevier (18-3, 8-0) will face Merit Academy (11-8, 3-7) at 6:30 p.m.
The rest of the games include matchups between Enterprise (13-9, 6-2) and Waterford (6-14, 3-7) at 10:30 a.m.; South Summit (14-7, 9-7) and Kanab (9-10, 2-6) at Noon; Summit Academy (11-10, 9-1) and Beaver (15-3, 5-3) at 3:30 p.m.; and Parowan (11-10, 5-3) at North Summit (8-12, 6-4) in the nightcap at 8 p.m.
The eight winners will advance to the second portion of the tournament, which will take place at Southern Utah University in Cedar City next Thursday-Saturday, while the rest return home.
"You never know what's going to happen in a one-game playoff," Hill said. "This weekend, anything can happen."
Class 2A Boys
Saturday's first round
At Orem High School
Manti (13-8) vs. Emery (13-7), 9 a.m.
Waterford (6-14) vs. Enterprise (6-2), 10:30 a.m.
Kanab (9-10) vs. South Summit (14-7), Noon
Richfield (11-8) vs. Gunnison (14-7), 1:30 p.m.
Beaver (15-3) vs. Summit Academy (11-10), 3:30 p.m.
San Juan (11-10) vs. Wasatch Academy (21-1), 5 p.m.
Merit Academy (11-8) vs. South Sevier (18-3), 6:30 p.m.
North Summit (8-12) vs. Parowan (11-10), 8 p.m.