LAS VEGAS — Despite winning state championships in two of the past three seasons, Wasatch Academy hasn’t been widely recognized as one of Utah's top high school boys basketball programs.
That’s about to change.
Wasatch Academy completed an exceptional three days of competition in the Jerry Tarkanian Classic with a 54-51 double-overtime win over Orem Saturday afternoon at Bishop Gorman High School for the Gold Division championship.
“This is huge for us as a program,” said Wasatch Academy coach Geno Morgan. “We’ve been looking for respect and hopefully this helps. We want to be recognized as a top team that can beat the top teams, and we did beat those top teams this weekend. It wasn’t easy — Orem, man, that was a tough game, but we did it.”
Orem gave Wasatch Academy all it could handle with a stingy, and unexpected, 1-3-1 zone defense that kept the game relatively low-scoring and well within reach throughout.
Wasatch Academy enjoyed a seven-to-10-point lead for most of the second half until the final minutes when Orem put together an 8-0 run to lead 36-35 with just two minutes remaining.
Wasatch sophomore Koby McEwen responded with a three-point play to put his team back on top 38-36 before Orem responded. Dalton Nixon provided a layup and Cooper Holt two made free throws to put Orem up 40-38 with 46 seconds remaining.
That’s when Geno Luzcando stepped up.
With time expiring, the senior pulled up from about 20 feet out on the baseline to swish through a jumper and send the game into overtime.
“I was just hoping so much that shot would go in,” Luzcando said. “This game meant so much for us and I didn’t want to be the guy to miss the shot and lose it, but it went through and I was so happy it did.”
Orem appeared poised to take the win in the first overtime until Luzcando stepped up again.
With just 32 seconds remaining, and Orem up 45-43, Luzcando hit two big free throws and tie the game again and send it into a second overtime.
“He’s someone we know we can count on. He’s our leader,” Morgan said. “He’s a great all-around player and definitely a guy you want with the ball in his hands during crucial situations.”
Guard Cody John got Wasatch Academy off to a quick start in the second overtime with a three-point play to put his team up 48-45. Orem’s Cooper Holt responded with a three-point play of his own to tie it up, but a McEwen jumper on the ensuing possession put the Tigers up for good.
Wasatch Academy enjoyed balanced scoring, with John leading the way with a game-high 17 points. Luzcando and McEwen added 15 and 14 points, respectively. Orem was led by Holt, who finished with 17.
The win capped off a magical weekend for a Wasatch Academy team earnestly seeking respect through competing with top teams — both in Utah and outside of Utah. Four straight wins against top competition earned that respect.
“We got done what we set out to do and that’s a great feeling,” Morgan said. “Orem made it tough by throwing at us that zone, and some other things. Huge credit to them for making those moves, but I’m just so proud of the kids and how they responded. This one was tough, but great players adjust and come through in adversity. We have those type of kids here and hopefully they’ll get recognized for the great players they are.”
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