SAM MERRILL, Bountiful, basketball: This senior went out with a bang at last week's 4A state tourney.
Merrill averaged 19.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.8 steals in four tourney games at the Huntsman Center to lead the Braves to their first title since 1997.
In the 4A title game against Orem, Merrill was at his best, scoring a season-high 23 points in the 44-43 win.
“Credit to Sam Merrill, he won the game for them,” said complimentary Orem coach Golden Holt.
Merrill was named the Deseret News 4A Tournament MVP, and finished the season averaging 16.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 7.3 apg.
A year ago when Merrill was named a Deseret News first teamer, he averaged 18.3 while playing several positions. This season he played point guard and focused less on scoring and more on getting his teammates involved.
It worked well as the Braves led 4A in scoring all season.
JENNA SHEPHERD, American Fork, basketball: Just a sophomore, Shepherd played a major role in leading the Cavemen on an unexpected run through the 5A girls state tournament last week.
The fourth seed from Region 4, American Fork upset Region 1-champion Layton, 50-41, in the first round; defeated Copper Hills, 61-51, in the second round; and surprised Alta in the semifinals, 46-44, all behind Shepherd’s dominant scoring ability.
“She’s really matured as the season’s gone. She’s just so athletic that she can get where she wants to get,” American Fork Corey Clayton said of Shepherd during the state tournament. “She’s a sophomore, which is pretty exciting to have a leader like that for the next two years.”
The 5-foot-9 guard, who averaged 9.96 points per game for the season, scored a career-high 22 points two games in a row, including against Lehi in the regular season finale and then against Layton in the tournament opener.
Shepherd scored 12 points in the quarterfinal round against Copper Hills and 18 against Alta, including a long-range last-second 3-pointer that pushed the Cavemen into the championship game, where they ultimately fell to Fremont.
“This is the most unbelievable feeling I’ve ever felt,” Shepherd told the Deseret News following the buzzer-beating 3. “I’ve dreamed about this forever, and now to be in it is just awesome.”
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