CEDAR CITY — The boys on the Wasatch Academy basketball team lean on each other more than most.
“It’s like a blended family — and I mean it’s really blended,” head coach Geno Morgan said after the Tigers beat Summit Academy, 75-41, in the quarterfinals of the 2A basketball tournament at Southern Utah University on Thursday afternoon.
The team is comprised of players from nine different countries: Chile, Canada, Nigeria, Vietnam, France and the U.S. With hundreds of miles between school and family, the team connection is forced to grow a little stronger.
“The thing with basketball, it’s pretty universal,” Morgan said. “I think there’s an unspoken language about the game, and it makes it a lot easier.”
It is also easier when a teammate can lend some advice about adjusting to a new home.
“The new guys get helped by the old guys, because they were there before and they understand that at one point everybody was in the same boat,” Morgan said. “When you can barely speak English and you don’t know where you’re going, they really help each other out.”
That all-for-one feeling stretches through the entire school.
“Our whole school, we have kids from over 40 different countries,” Morgan said. “It’s just a family thing that we do. And it’s just a continuous thing so that everybody knows that once you get to Wasatch Academy, you’re going to be welcomed and it’s going to be OK.”
The community that has been created on the team has been one that breeds success. The Tigers have accumulated a 23-1 record up to this point in the season, losing only to Judge Memorial of 3A. Wasatch Academy was also the undefeated Region 16 champions.
Ten different players scored in the victory over Summit Academy, led by Cody John and Geno Luzcando, who scored 19 and 13 points, respectively. Garret Crosby, the lone player from Mt. Pleasant, Utah, scored eight points in the win. The team totaled 38 rebounds and 19 assists to accentuate the teamwork that goes into its wins.
“We have seven keys, and one of our keys is ‘finish,’” Morgan said. “We have to finish what we start no matter what the score is.”
He added that he was pleased with the defensive effort that went into the game plan of shutting down the Bears’ outside shooting.
“We really focused on containing their shooters and making them put the ball on the floor,” he said, noting that Summit Academy was 3-for-13 from long range, and hit two of them late in the game. “I thought we did a great job.”
Summit Academy was led by Rashaan Griffin, who scored 10 points and grabbed 10 boards along with five steals, as well as by Ashton Richards, who also scored 10 points.
Wasatch Academy will meet South Sevier in a highly-anticipated semifinal matchup. That game will be Friday at 9:10 p.m. Summit Academy will face North Summit in the consolation bracket at 5:50 p.m. on Friday. Both games will be played at SUU.
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.