DRAPER Mystery is the word that best describes the Juan Diego boys and girls basketball teams as this season progresses. The boys team won region last year but graduated five starters. Despite that, they have a lot of experience from their junior varsity and sophomore programs coming up and a tough schedule designed to prepare them down the stretch, and once they get past some key injuries, they could be capable of anything. The girls have a new coach and some new faces on the floor and have already won as many games this year as they won over the course of the whole season last year. Both teams are definitely capable of playing spoiler down the stretch but could accomplish even more once they get into their regular seasons.
BOYS: Having graduated all five starters from last year and with three key players suffering injuries in the pre-season, the Soaring Eagle are almost a total enigma headed into the season.
Although there is a new starting five, four are seniors and all five have been successful at the sophomore and junior varsity levels. Senior Devin Thomas came off the bench as the sixth man last year and has the most experience out of the newcomers. At the point, Carson Wentlender is also a senior and will be a key leader for the Soaring Eagle.
"Carson has played point at the JV and sophomore levels, he knows the system and the seniors look to him for leadership," Juan Diego head coach Sonny Tangaro said.
Tangaro also hopes to utilize the versatility of senior starters Pat Fratto and Michael Falvo.
"Pat is a wing, but he ends up playing inside a lot because he's such a good rebounder and an aggressive defender. He's not flashy but a workhorse," Tangaro said. "Michael is probably our strongest offensive player, and if he works hard on defense and rebounding, he could be a very good complete player."
Junior Talon Harris, the fifth and final starter, suffered several major injury problems last year. Ironically, he's stepped up and filled the gap this year due to injuries to several other players. Junior Josh Nagel suffered an injured calf, Tyler Bauman, a senior, is out with a high ankle sprain, and senior Josh Rude, a standout at strong safety for the Soaring Eagle football team, broke his collarbone immediately following the football season and is out four to six weeks.
"Talon is our surprise this year. Because of the other injuries, he got the opportunity, and he's making the most of it," Tangaro said.
Last year, Juan Diego swept region but faltered at state. Tangaro setup a strong preseason schedule against teams from bigger schools, like Lone Peak, Tooele and Skyline, to try to get his team as prepared as possible for the big games to come further down the line.
"Last year, we won our league, but when we got to state, we ran into very tough southern teams. Our region will be much improved this year, though," Tangaro said. "Delta, Carbon, Emery they're all much improved."
With no players topping 6-foot-4, the Soaring Eagle will rely more on a small-ball type of game.
"We have to run, press, play hard defense," Tangaro said. "It's definitely an exciting, fun way to play basketball."
GIRLS: In their first seven games this year, the Juan Diego girls basketball team grabbed three wins over Grand, Layton Christian and Waterford. It's a promising start for a team that had only three total wins last season. With a first-year head coach, Ashley McKray, and some new talent on the floor, no one really knows what the team is capable of pulling off.
So far this season, the Soaring Eagle have been led in scoring by Amy Garbrecht, Jill Dino, Brieann Dimond and Jenna Speare. The players are also responding on the defensive end. In their most recent win over Waterford, the Soaring Eagle held the Ravens to only one point in the fourth quarter, coming back in impressive fashion from a 10-point deficit.
"It's our first year together. We're building a program. Each game we're improving. It's a new experience for us, so we're just being positive about the year and being optimistic," McKray said.
McKray came to Juan Diego after assisting at Alta last season.
"We're just trying to get established as a team," she said. "The players are getting to know their new head coach, as well as each other, all while trying to learn new plays and strategies."
Even with the changes, McKray has high hopes for the Soaring Eagle squad.
"We're hoping to finish in the top three in region," she said. "It's a tough region with Carbon and Emery. It's going to be a tough fight."
She inherited this year's tough schedule, but so far the team is responding very well to her leadership and the changes that come with a new head coach."They're very excited," she said. "We're very focused on the fundamentals right now, but they're willing to work hard and that makes it exciting."
Juan Diego Soaring Eagle boys basketball
League: Region 8
Last season: 15-8, won Region 8, 6th at state
Predicted 2007-08 region finish: First
Head coach: Sonny Tangaro
Key returning players: Devin Thomas, 6-1, Sr.
Key newcomers: Carson Wentlender, 6-1, Sr.; Pat Fratto, 6-1, Sr.; Michael Falvo, 6-3, Sr.; Talon Harris, 6-2, Jr.; Anthony Rinaldi, 5-10, Jr.; Alexandros Bardis, 6-1, Jr.; Neil Drabik, 6-4, Jr.
Nov. 30 Juan Diego 60, Layton Christian 44
Dec. 5 Lone Peak 76, Juan Diego 31
Dec. 7 Tooele 53, Juan Diego 52
Dec. 12 Juan Diego 76, Ben Lomond 60
Dec. 14 Skyline 67, Juan Diego 45
Dec. 18 Juan Diego at Murray, 7 p.m.
Dec. 27 Juan Diego vs. Jordan (at Logan HS), 2:15 p.m.
Dec. 28 Juan Diego vs. TBA (at Logan HS), TBA
Dec. 29 Juan Diego vs. TBA (at Logan HS), TBA
Jan. 3 Juan Diego at Lehi, 7 p.m.
Jan. 5 Judge Memorial at Juan Diego, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 9 Emery at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Jan. 16 Juan Diego at North Sanpete, 7 p.m.
Jan. 18 Delta at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Jan. 23 Juan Diego at Carbon, 7 p.m.
Jan. 25 Juan Diego at Emery, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 North Sanpete at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Feb. 6 Juan Diego at Delta, 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 Carbon at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Juan Diego Soaring Eagle girls basketball
League: Region 8
Last season: 3-18, 1-7 in Region
Predicted 2007-08 region finish: Fifth
Head coach: Ashley McKray
Key returning players: Jill Dino, 5-7, Jr.; Amy Garbrecht, 5-10, Sr.; Jenna Speare, 5-10, Sr., Brieann Dimond, 5-3, Sr.; Brandi Otting, 5-7, Sr.; Kendra Spooner, 5-6, Sr.
Key newcomers: Brittney Coffer, 5-6, Soph.; Vicki Shinkus, 5-5, Fr.; Haley Poulson, 5-4, Soph.
Nov. 29 Morgan 65, Juan Diego 36
Dec. 1 Juan Diego 38, Grand 34
Dec. 3 Juan Diego 48, Layton Christian 31
Dec. 6 Riverton 71, Juan Diego 19
Dec. 7 American Leadership 46, Juan Diego 40
Dec. 8 Morgan 50, Juan Diego 26
Dec. 11 Juan Diego 34, Waterford 31
Dec. 13 Ben Lomond 40, Juan Diego 37
Dec. 14 Cottonwood 52, Juan Diego 39
Dec. 18 Union at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Dec. 29 Judge Memorial at Juan Diego, 4 p.m.
Jan. 8 Juan Diego at Emery, 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 North Sanpete at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Jan. 17 Juan Diego at Delta, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 Carbon at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Jan. 24 Emery at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Jan. 31 Juan Diego at North Sanpete, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 Delta at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Contributing: Amy Donaldson E-mail: email@example.com