High school boys basketball: Layton Christian a mystery team in 1A

Published: Friday, Oct. 9 2015 5:51 p.m. MDT

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Editor’s note: 2A basketball preview will be in Friday’s Deseret News

Check out the Deseret News leaders to see scoring, rebounds, steals and assists leaders in 1A.

Here’s a look back at the 1A preseason capsules that were published on Nov. 20.

Talk to just about any boys basketball coach in 1A, and they’ll tell you roughly the same thing, there’s no clear-cut state title favorite this season. Each statement comes with an asterisk though — Layton Christian.

Nobody knows what to make of the defending 1A state champs.

Layton Christian only has one returning starter and hasn’t participated in any preseason tournaments against fellow 1A competition, preferring instead to play a preseason schedule that includes 2A, 3A, 4A and 5A teams.

The Eagles are 0-7 in those games, but they’re still probably one of the best 1A teams.

“We’re playing a tougher schedule than I ever play. It’s tough, but we’ve been in the games. We’ve lost some heartbreakers, but that’s how they’re going to learn to finish,” said head basketball coach Bobby Porter.

Porter isn’t concerned by the lack of wins. Layton Christian was 2-8 in the preseason last year, but it ran the tables in Region 17 and then dominated the 1A state tournament.

That could happen again this year, but nobody is quite sure. Layton Christian hasn’t played a 1A team yet this year, and outside of teams in Region 17 — which Layton Christian should dominate— won’t until the state tournament.

“I’d say 1A is probably as wide open as it’s been in a long time. Layton Christian could be as tough as anybody, but they play such a tough preseason schedule, I don’t think anybody knows how good they are,” said Bryce Valley coach Eric Jessen.

There’s still a lot of basketball to be played before the state tournament though, and five region titles to hand out as well.

While Layton Christian in Region 17, Tintic in Region 18 and Monticello in Region 19 are the favorites to win their respective regions, things are slightly more open in Region 20 and 21.

Region 20 got under way the week before Christmas, and it’s no surprise to see Bryce Valley and Panguitch each sitting atop the standings with 2-0 records.

Bryce Valley was a runner-up to Layton Christian last season, and despite just one returning starter, the Mustangs are still one of the best teams in 1A. That one player is a dandy, too. Braxton Syrett is averaging 22.8 ppg, and coach Jessen believes he’s one of the best in 1A.

Panguitch finished third in Region 20 last season behind Bryce Valley and Piute, but many believe the Bobcats are the slight favorite this time around with three returning starters. Two of those starters are Tyce Barney and Dalan Bennett, who are averaging 35.5 ppg.

Despite that experience, Panguitch went 2-3 this preseason, including a 55-52 loss to Duchesne. That result renewed the debate about whether Region 20 or 21 is stronger.

Based on the preseason, Jessen believes some of the power might’ve swung back north.

Duchesne went 2-0 against Region 20 teams at the 1A Preseason Preview in Richfield in early December, while Rich and Tabiona each went 1-0.

With Region 21 play getting under way next week, Duchesne, Rich and Tabiona all own winning records and all have hopes of winning the league title.

“We’re coming along. We feel like we’ve got some things to improve on obviously,” said Duchesne coach Stan Young, who isn’t concerned by the lack of returning starters. “We were so deep last year, so a lot of these kids played last year.”

Young actually believes Rich and its two returning starters, Austin Groll and McKay Jarman, are the slight favorites in Region 21.

Even though Layton Christian along with the front-runners in Region 20 and 21 will dominate the conversation in 1A, Monticello could be a sleeper team. The Buckaroos are 6-1 this preseason and already beat Rich back on Dec. 7. Their three returning starters of Jake Duncan, Gunnar Hollingsworth and Austin Maloy are all averaging around 13.0 ppg.

Duncan is one of the better bigs in 1A, and coach Tony Esplin said he’s done a great job dealing with the extra attention.

“He’s kind of taking over a passing role, more of a floor general. Teams have keyed on him, and our guards have had success when he’s been able to draw doubles and kick it out to them,” said Esplin.

Region 18 favorite Tintic is 8-1 this preseason, and unlike past years it can’t be cast aside as a one-and-done playoff team. The Miners haven’t won a state tournament game in more than a decade, but they played Tabiona very tough two weeks ago and they’re also a balanced team with McKade Holman, Travis Green and Taylor Hurst all averaging in double figures.

Deseret News 1A region projections

Note: Projections were picked by the Deseret News staff based on observations from the first month of the season.

Region 17

1. Layton Christian

2. St. Joseph

3. West Ridge

4. Legacy Prep

5. ICS

6. Concordia

7. Oakley

8. Mt. Vernon

Region 18

1. Tintic

2. Wendover

3. Dugway

4. Rockwell

Region 19

1. Monticello

2. Green River

3. Pinnacle

4. Whitehorse

5. Monument Valley

6. Navajo Mountain

Region 20

1. Bryce Valley

2. Panguitch

3. Piute

4. Wayne

5. Valley

6. Diamond Ranch

7. Escalante

8. Milford

Region 21

1. Duchesne

2. Rich

3. Tabiona

4. Manila

5. Altamont

6. Uintah River

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company