PLEASANT GROVE As the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a ... well, whatever needs to be skinned.
The two basketball teams at Pleasant Grove High will use different methods this season in an attempt to get the job done.
The boys team is dominated by outstanding guards and should give opponents fits with outstanding perimeter play and ball-handling skills. The girls team, on the other hand, is a post-play oriented team and hopes to be competitive with strong inside play.By taking advantage of their two different strengths and styles, both teams are expecting to be tough teams to beat again in Region 4. Both also should make a return trip to the 5A playoffs if they can master their specialties.
Boys: Even though the Vikings lost their leading scorer and about 20 points per game from last year's team, no one is really expecting them to drop off much in offensive firepower.
With four starters back, all four of whom are loaded with offensive talent, lighting up the scoreboard should not be a concern of coach Randy McAllister. The points might just have to come a different way this season.
"We lost our ability to score as often in the post," McAllister said. "But I think we'll be able to make up for it with our penetration, because penetration is just as good as throwing the ball inside and scoring."
Guards C.J. Wilcox, LeSean Wilcox, Brady Thurgood and Craig Tucker comprise a backcourt that any coach would love to have. Each is outstanding at driving to the hoop and either finishing or dishing off. All four are also deadly perimeter shooters.
"I think they're four of the top guards in the state and to have them all on the same team is just a real plus for us," McAllister said.
Post players Sefa Tanoai, a bulky 6-foot-3, and Adam Nielson, at 6-foot-5, should take care of what needs to be done in the paint. Both specialize in position defense and position rebounding, which is exactly what the Vikings need them to do.
"I think we might have picked up a little bit of defense in the post but lost a little bit of offense in the post," McAllister said.
Outsiders might think the Vikings lack depth because the team's other three seniors didn't play a lot of varsity last season. Still, McAllister said Jared Allridge, Lance Adamson and Andy Schleitwiler would be starters on a lot of teams.
"I think we can go nine or 10 deep, and I think our bench will surprise some people," he said.
The Vikings earned a reputation the past few years as a run-and-gun squad that simply tried to outscore teams. That mentality hasn't taken Pleasant Grove far in the postseason. So this year the Vikings are focused much more on defense. They'll try to keep the game at a comfortable tempo and emphasize solid defense every time down court. Improved defense has been the Vikings' primary focus since their playoff loss last year."Honestly, these kids could care less how many points they score this year. They just want to keep teams as low as possible," McAllister said.
Girls: The Vikings will be taking the courts this season without much of last year's scoring punch, and they will miss Kristy Giles and Aimee Dorais.
But Whitney Giles will still be launching treys and hitting them most of the time, and the nice thing about this three-point shooter is that she can also play under the basket with a solid post game.
And that's what the Vikings will be counting on for much of this season; their half-court game.
"We'd like to get the ball inside, run a half court game. Our guards are not as quick this year. We will break when it's there, but we're not going to force it," said Pleasant Grove coach Glenn Larsen, who is well aware that his team's intended style is very different from that of most of the other teams in the valley.
Larsen is going to be running players in and out as usual, keeping people fresh as he uses plenty of subs. But it might take a few games for his players to get to know each other. And with the lineup his team is playing early this season, he hopes they don't lose confidence along the way. The early schedule is rife with opponents ranked in the state's top 20 and jam-packed with last year's top playoff teams.
But no matter how difficult the early going is for Pleasant Grove, they should be able to make a splash once the region season rolls around if the early going doesn't do them in.
In addition to Giles' return, Sarah Clement will also come back to the courts after playing a prominent role last year as will talented Krystal Carter, whom Larsen hopes will take up some of the scoring slack.
Mekell Miles will also bring in her shooting game, and sophomore Jennifer Hamson will be a noticeable presence from the inside as she uses her 6-foot-6 frame to frighten other teams into offensive problems.
Though the Vikings aren't expected to be able to play with the likes of Lone Peak and American Fork, the team is still expected to make a playoff run in this league."It was good for us to make the state tournament last year, and we want to make that a habit. We just want to give ourselves a chance to win every game," said Larsen.
Pleasant Grove Vikings: boys basketball
League: Region 4
Last season: 16-6, third in Region 4
Predicted 2007-08 region finish: Second
Head coach: Randy McAllister, sixth year
Assistant coaches: Shawn Faux, Lane Pont, Shannon Gunter
Key returning players: Craig Tucker, 6-foot-3 guard, Sr.; Adam Nielson, 6-foot-5 center, Sr.; LeSean Wilcox, 5-foot-10 guard, Jr.; C. J. Wilcox, 6-foot-5 guard, Jr.; Brady Thurgood, 6-foot-2 guard, Sr.
(home games in bold)
Nov. 27 - Pleasant Grove 74, Alta 56
Nov. 30 - Pleasant Grove 85, Provo 61
Dec. 3 - Pleasant Grove 67, West Jordan 59
Dec. 7 - Riverton
Dec. 12 - Payson
Dec. 14 - Springville
Dec. 19 - Kearns
Dec. 26 - at Palm Springs
Dec. 27 - at Palm Springs
Dec. 28 - at Palm Springs
Dec. 29 - at Palm Springs
Jan. 11 - Spanish Fork
Jan. 16 - Timpanogos
Jan. 18 - Lone Peak
Jan. 25 - American Fork
Jan. 30 - Lehi
Feb. 1 - Spanish Fork
Feb. 6 - Timpanogos
Feb. 8 - Lone Peak
Feb. 13 - American Fork
Pleasant Grove Vikings: girls basketball
League: Region 4
Last season: 9-13, fourth in Region 4
Predicted 2007-08 region finish: Fourth
Head coach: Glenn Larson, Sixth year
Assistant coaches: Pam Dahl, Kyle Petersen, Kaycee Kendrick
Key returning players: Krystal Carter, 5-foot-5 guard, Sr.; Sarah Clement, 6-foot-3 post, Sr.; Kami Dirks, 5-foot-10 guard, Sr.; Mekell Miles, 5-foot-9 guard, Sr.; Whitney Giles, 5-foot-10 guard/forward, Sr.
(home games in bold)
Nov. 20 - Provo 53, Pleasant Grove 50
Nov. 27 Pleasant Grove 46, Brighton 34
Nov. 30 Bingham 65, Pleasant Grove 50
Dec. 4 Jordan 46, Pleasant Grove 35
Dec. 6 Evanston at Gillette, Wyoming
Dec. 7 Campbell at Gillette, Wyoming
Dec. 8 Kelly Walsh at Gillette, Wyoming
Dec. 11 Payson
Dec. 14 Orem
Dec. 18 Hunter
Jan. 8 Lehi
Jan. 11 Spanish Fork
Jan. 15 Timpanogos
Jan. 18 Lone Peak
Jan. 25 American Fork
Jan. 29 Lehi
Feb. 1 Spanish Fork
Feb. 5 Timpanogos
Feb.. 8 Lone Peak