Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
Lone Peak basketball players Bracken Funk (45), Justin Hamilton (41) and Josh Sharp (32) are the leaders of this season's Knights.

HIGHLAND — Basketball at Lone Peak High seems to get better and better each year.

The two teams both won region titles last year, and the boys also went on to win the 5A state championship.

But even though there are many new faces on both teams this year, both are still expected to be as good as ever. Both are also picked by most to repeat as league champions, and both should be there again in the late stages of the state tournament.

Boys: It's hard to imagine that a team that won 24 games and a state championship a season ago, a team which also has three Division I players in the starting line-up and is nationally ranked, could need a little tweaking.

But Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis said the Knights might not be clicking on all cylinders for a few more weeks. Unlike last season, injuries and replacing some key players have prevented the Knights from playing or practicing much with all of their main weapons in uniform.

"It's much different from last year," Lewis said. "Last year we hit the ground running. We had guys who had played together for months. This year we're still putting things together, so we're not going to have that chemistry for a little while."

Despite the high expectations for the Knights this season, Lewis points out that they're much more inexperienced than most think. Only one starter is back and only two players saw a lot of varsity time last season. There's a new point guard and a few new faces in the front court.

"This team has a lot of talent, but it's just going to be a little bit of a process before we get all the way there," Lewis said.

Once the Knights get healthy and get a few more games under their belt, there's no reason why they shouldn't be among the top two or three teams in the state. Junior guard Tyler Haws, last year's 5A MVP, can do it all. Post players Bracken Funk (6-foot-7), Josh Sharp (6-foot-7), Justin Hamilton (6-foot-11) and Nate Austin (6-foot-9) give Lone Peak the tallest front court in the state. And everyone can shoot.

"I actually think we have more offensive weapons this year than we did last year," Lewis said.

The main personality of this team, obviously, is height. So, obviously, scoring inside will be Lone Peak's strength.

"We have to get it in the paint, and really any good team does that, whether it's through penetration or just throwing it down on the block," Lewis said.

The Knights should also be an outstanding defensive team this year, but in a different way. Instead of stopping teams with toughness or owning the passing lanes, it'll simply be tough for teams to go over the top of the Knights.

"Honestly, we could lose a few more games. But really, all I'm concerned about is where we're at in the end, on March 1," Lewis said.

Girls: These girls are ready to run to the region title for the second year in a row. The only thing that could stand in their way is a group of Cavewomen.

But those two teams are definitely the class of the league, and the Knights are riding last year's region title, showing they know how to get it done.

Yes, the Knights lost a solid group of players last year, but they're bringing plenty of talent back and adding what looks to be some of the top ability in the state with a couple of hoops-savvy freshmen.

"We have three really quick guards, and we're very deep. This is the tallest, deepest, fastest team I've had. Every girl that goes on the court can run," said coach Keith Flood, who is excited about the season for good reason, the Knights are still undefeated and playing well.

But though Lone Peak still plans to play quick both offensively and defensively, they have added some new abilities as well.

"We will still be very uptempo, but we'll also be looking to go inside a lot this year," said Flood, referring to his talented group of post players, which includes four six footers.

Ryan Littlefield, who has shown some great rebounding skills, Katie Oliverson, who improved over almost every game last season, and Amanda Farish, who is a versatile star signed to play for Southern Utah next season, are bigs who have proven themselves in the past.

Kandace Pope and Whitney Johnson have been added to the mix in the low post, and one of the state's most highly touted up-and-comers in Marquelle Funk will be playing several positions for the Knights.

Funk is only a freshman but has already shown she knows how to play in the first few contests of the season.

"She's a lot like Farish, she plays wherever we need her to play," said Flood of his versatile freshman, who has plenty of senior leadership to show her the ropes.

And the guards are no slouches with the hustle of Shantel Flanary and the solid play from Stephanie George and Mackenzie Hansen.

"Its fun watching the intensity in practice as they battle hard for playing time. We can comfortably go 12 deep, but the biggest challenge will be how the girls play together and how they accept their roles on the team," concluded Flood.

E-mail: [email protected], [email protected]

Boys basketball

Class: 5A

League: Region 4

Last season: 24-1, first in Region 4, state 5A champions

Predicted 2007-08 region finish: First

Head coach: Quincy Lewis, fith year

Assistant coaches: Tom Perkins, Brandon Stoddard, Brendon Dayton, Reed Bromley

Key returning players: Bracken Funk, 6-foot-7 forward, Sr.; Justin Hamilton, 6-foot-11 center, Sr.; Josh Sharp, 6-foot-7 forward, Sr.; Tyler Haws, 6-foot-5 guard, Jr.

Newcomers: Brandon Reeves, 6-foot-3 guard, Jr.; Kimball Payne, 6-foot guard, Sr.; Brian Hale, 6-foot-3 guard, Sr.; Dillon Smith, 6-foot-2 guard, Jr.; Nate Austin, 6-foot-9 center, Jr.

Schedule (home games in bold)

Nov. 20 - Provo 64, Lone Peak 62

Nov. 30 - Lone Peak 72, El Dorado 49

Dec. 1 - Lone Peak 74, Dixie 51

Dec. 5 - Lone Peak 76, Juan Diego 31

Dec. 7 - Lone Peak 75, Bountiful 66

Dec. 14 - Bingham

Dec. 20 - Viewmont

Dec. 28 - T-Mobile Invitational

Dec. 29 - T-Mobile Invitational

Jan. 2 - Alta

Jan. 4 - Brighton

Jan. 11 - American Fork

Jan. 16 - Spanish Fork

Jan. 18 - Pleasant Grove

Jan. 25 - Lehi

Jan. 30 - Timpanogos

Feb. 1 - American Fork

Feb. 6 - Spanish Fork

Feb. 8 - Pleasant Grove

Feb. 13 - Lehi

Feb. 19 - Timpanogos

Girls basketball

Class: 5A

League: Region 4

Last season: 16-7, first in Region 4,

Predicted 2007-08 region finish: First

Head coach: Keith Flood, fourth year

Assistant coaches: Mark Holden, Angie Webb, Derek Farr, Travis Reynolds,

Lani Sayer

Key returning players: Amanda Farish, 6-foot-1 post, Sr.; Ryan Littlefield, 6-foot-2 post, Sr.; Shantel Flanary, 5-foot-2 guard, Sr.; Katie Oliverson, 6-foot post, Sr.; Stephanie George, 5-foot-7 guard, Sr.

Newcomers: Mackenzie Hansen, 5-foot-7 guard, Sr.; Kandace Pope, 5- foot-11 forward, Sr.; Marquelle Funk, 5-foot-11 forward, Fr.; Whitney Johnson, 6-foot-2 post, Fr.; Brittany Davies, 5-foot-8 guard, Jr.; Megan Smith, 5-foot-11 guard/forward, Jr.

Schedule (home games in bold)

Nov. 20 - Lone Peak 58 Kearns 39

Nov. 27 - Lone Peak 69 Copper Hills 21

Nov. 30 - Lone Peak 38 Riverton 36

Dec. 4 - Lone Peak 75 Brighton 37

Dec. 7 - Lone Peak 58 Jordan 35

Dec. 8 - Lone Peak 46 Payson 39

Dec. 11 - Timpview

Dec. 13 - West Jordan

Dec. 19 - TBA (at Phoenix)

Dec. 20 - TBA (at Phoenix)

Dec. 21 - TBA (at Phoenix)

Dec. 22 - TBA (at Phoenix)

Jan. 8 - Timpanogos

Jan. 11 - American Fork

Jan. 16 - Spanish Fork

Jan. 18 - Pleasant Grove

Jan. 25 - Lehi

Jan. 29 - Timpanogos

Jan. 31 - American Fork

Feb. 6 - Spanish Fork

Feb. 8 - Pleasant Grove

Feb. 13 - Lehi