The Desert Hills girls basketball team spent all but three weeks ranked first in the Deseret News weekly rankings this season. It’s a testament to the overall quality of the Thunder roster, highlighted by BYU-bound guard Ashley Beckstrand.
When the 3A state tournament tips off this weekend with the first round at home sites, the Thunder have everything to prove again. Desert Hills is one of six or seven teams that most believe have a realistic shot at hoisting the trophy at Utah State next weekend.
Between Richfield and Carbon from Region 12, Juan Diego and Morgan from Region 11, Grantsville from Region 10 or Desert Hills and Cedar from Region 9, there are no shortage or contenders this season.
“We’ve been playing pretty good, but it scares me that there are some really good teams up north,” said Desert Hills coach Ron Denos. “There are about six teams that whoever is playing well at the right time is going to win it, probably more so than we’ve had in 3A I think.”
Most of the contenders took turns beating each other as well in the preseason and region, which should make for an exciting and unpredictable state tournament.
“We’re really excited, we’ve had a good year, but at the same time we know a bunch of teams that have good years,” said Richfield coach Mark Peterson.
The first order of business for all the contenders is to take care of business at home this Saturday in the first round. After that, it can make arrangements for the three-day tournament at Utah State.
A No. 1 seed has lost in the first round in three of the past four seasons, something Region 12 No. 1 seed Richfield is mindful of.
“There might be one or two teams that are eliminated early that happen to have an off game. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the excitement of the state tournament,” said Peterson.
For some teams, an upset seems unlikely. Richfield and co-Region 12 champ Carbon both face teams with losing records in the first round, as does Region 10 champ Grantsville and Region 9 runner-up Cedar.
Grantsville is the only team that won 20 games during the regular as it led 3A in scoring offense at 63.6 ppg. It didn’t, however, play any preseason games against any of the playoff teams from the other three regions, so it’s a bit of a mystery how Grantsville measures up.
The other four home teams this Saturday all face much tougher paths to the quarterfinals against teams with winning records — Ridgeline (13-6) at Desert Hills (17-3), Snow Canyon (11-10) at Juan Diego (14-5), Hurricane (12-10) at Morgan (17-5) and Juab (13-7) at Union (11-9).