High school boys basketball: Deseret News MVPs were versatile stars
Late in the preseason of Sam Merrill’s sophomore season at Bountiful, a spot in the starting lineup opened up when one of his teammates sprained an ankle.
Three years later, Merrill is leaving the Bountiful program as one of the best in school history.
“When he stepped in, we quickly learned we couldn’t live without him on the court,” said Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell.
With Merrill in the starting lineup the past 2½ years, Bountiful posted a staggering 61-6 record, including this year’s 4A state championship — the school’s first since 1997.
Of those six losses, two came in the 4A semifinals, including last year’s gut-wrenching loss to Sky View on Jalen Moore’s overtime half-courter. Merrill scored a career-high 35 points in that loss, and the half-courter was probably the only way he was going to be denied on that night.
Merrill will take his talents to Utah State after serving an LDS mission, and Maxwell said Stew Morrill is getting a winner of the finest quality.
“In AAU ball, or everywhere he goes, teams are better when he’s on the court. Sometimes you can’t put your hand on it, he’s just doing the right things at the right times, some of it’s so subtle, it’s unreal what he does,” said Maxwell.
Merrill’s scoring actually went down this season, dropping from 18.3 ppg during his junior year to 15.9, but the talented Braves didn’t really need him to score to be successful. Don’t be mistaken, he still got his points, finishing 11th in 4A in scoring, but he made his presence felt in other areas. He led 4A with 7.3 assists and finished sixth with 2.1 steals.
“He does what he has to do to make sure we win, that’s where the versatility is so impressive. A lot of kids can do a lot of things, but Sam does the right things at the right time to make sure we’re winning,” said Maxwell
That was never more evident than in the 4A championship game. On a night when Orem’s defense flustered everyone else on the floor, Merrill was his steady, usual self, scoring 21 points and dishing out four assists in the 44-43 victory.
Garren Miles, Morgan
When Garren Miles came off the bench to score 12 points for Morgan in last year’s 3A championship game victory over Bear River, in a subtle way it signaled that the program was going to be just fine despite the graduation of 3A's Jake Miles — Garren’s cousin.
Sure enough, with Garren Miles leading the way, Morgan enjoyed another dominant season, capturing a second straight 3A state championship after ending the season on a 16-game winning streak.
Miles led the Trojans in scoring, averaging 15.7 points per game, in addition to averaging 2.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals.
“This year he just stepped up leadershipwise. Characterwise he made big growths. He’s just been a fun kid to coach and got after it,” said Morgan coach Jim Wiscombe.
On such a deep team, Miles didn’t need to average 20-plus for the Trojans to be successful, but the dynamite shooter was certainly capable of filling that role when necessary.
He scored 20-plus points on eight occasions this season, and led 3A with 56 3-pointers — including two each in all four Morgan playoff victories.
Defensively, Miles relished the opportunity to guard some of the state’s best players, an area he excelled in. Against Box Elder back in the preseason, Miles helped limit 4A’s second-leading scorer Shad Watson to just 12 points. A month later in a region game against Juan Diego, he helped frustrate 3A leading scorer Gabe Colosimo, limiting him to just five points.