Doug Robinson: High-flying Knights shatter hoops stereotypes while doing things 'the right way'

Published: Sunday, March 3 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Lone Peak celebrate their win over Alta after the 5A State Championship game in Ogden Saturday, March 2, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

OGDEN — It wasn't until after Lone Peak High School's sensational boys basketball team dispatched Alta by the fairly routine score of 72-39 in Saturday's 5A state championship game that their timing and best-laid plans finally failed them.

Their celebration needs work.

They waited behind the locker room door in ambush, armed with containers of water, to give coach Quincy Lewis the traditional victory shower — and waited ... and waited ... and waited.

Minutes passed. More minutes passed. "Where is Coach?" the players asked.

More minutes passed. Assistant coaches repeatedly peeked in the door to tell them their coach would arrive soon. Eventually, the players began to chant "Coach! Coach! Coach!"

Twenty minutes later, Lewis finally made his entry, and the celebration began, making a small pond out of their Dee Events Center locker room. Eyeing his wet clothes, Lewis shouted "Look at me!"

Everybody is already looking at Lewis and the Knights, who are a national sensation, and their latest victory will do nothing to dampen that. With Saturday's win, the Knights are arguably the greatest high school basketball team in state history. They can also stake their claim on the national championship, but that won't be made official until the other states have completed their state tournaments.

More waiting. Meanwhile, the curiosity of the nation's media will resume.

Let's face it, the reason the Knights are all the rage at the moment is not merely because they have run roughshod over some of the country's best basketball teams or spent weeks ranked No. 1 in the nation. It's because, in the words of their own coach, "We're a different animal."

High school national champions get attention, but not like this. They don't go on the "Today Show." They don't get an invitation from "Good Morning, America." They're not interviewed by Sports Illustrated, the New York Times and National Public Radio.

The Knights have stolen the national spotlight because they're a dominant basketball team that doesn't look the part. In a wrap, here's what just happened: A bunch of public-school, clean-cut Mormon boys from a small town in Utah stormed through the basketball season and destroyed everyone's stereotype of what a championship basketball team is. Too white, too slight, too small-town, the Knights were literally laughed at when they entered the gym. They were an oddity in a game traditionally ruled by black inner-city teams.

"We flunk the eyeball test," says Lewis. "We have one guy who looks imposing and after that we don't look like much. If you were to walk in our halls, you couldn't pick out those guys. We're different than what's out there."

"We hear what other teams say about us and what is written in social media," says senior guard Nick Emery.

"What's the chess team doing here? I've heard that comment," says assistant principal Kenley Brown.

"We get a lot of funny looks," says center Eric Mika. "Like, 'Really? These are the guys we're playing?' One team was literally laughing at us when we were warming up. We beat them by 50."

Says Lewis, "I could tell you about more than one time we walked into the gym and the other team looked at us and said 'Who are these guys?' These teams don't have a lot of respect for us. Our guys thrive on that."

And how. They finished with a 26-1 record while beating their opponents by an average of 28.5 points (ridiculous average score: Lone Peak 72.7, Opponent 44.2). They were 9-1 in national tournaments, beating teams from Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina and California by an average of 23 points. Five of those teams were ranked No. 1 in their states as of last week.