MURRAY — After a pair of ho-hum seasons fans of the Murray Spartans probably didn't know what to expect from its boys basketball team this year.

The Spartans were far from a bad basketball team, but not quite to the level of being able to call themselves a good squad. Accordingly, Murray has been in the middle of the Region 6 standings struggling to break through as a legitimate contender for a run into the state playoffs.

This year, though, things are looking up as the 4A Spartans have bolted out to a 5-2 start with wins over a handful of 5A teams.

Murray coach Jason Workman isn't surprised by the early results.

He said the Spartans have "good experience in (the) starting five on a team that finished the year on a 9-2 stretch."

The top returning player for the Spartans is guard Markus Duran. The 5-foot-10 point guard saw some valuable time last year as a sophomore and averaged six points and four assists per game. This year, the junior has stepped into a leadership role and is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with on offense.

Averaging 19.7 points per outing during the preseason, Duran has led the Spartans in a variety of ways.

Zach Lloyd provides a secondary scoring option and is tossing in 9.8 points per game while forward Tanner Carr contributes 7.3 points.

Murray doesn't have a lot of size in the paint — Workman said he has no one taller than 6-4 he is expecting to contribute this year — but the outside shooting has been a plus with Duran knocking down nearly three 3-pointers per game.

"We need to find some consistent bench play," Workman said, "and rebounding to improve on last season."

With a pair of losses after the five opening wins, the Spartans were dealt a set back on the road to the playoffs. But with Region 6 play beginning this week, Murray may be in a good spot to climb out of the middle of the pack and into a higher seed.

GIRLS: It's a season of change for the Spartans on the girls' side of the gym. After years of dominating Region 6 and challenging for state championships, Murray is starting over in a lot of ways.

Gone is a roster filled with experience and talent. In its place, the Spartans have a fair amount of talent, but hardly any experience.

"We have just one returning varsity player and that's Shay," Beh said after the season opener, a lopsided loss to Provo. "I think we were a little bit surprised at how much more aggressive varsity basketball is. But rest assured, Murray will be back and ready not just to deal with that, but to offer that kind of pressure as well."

Kennedy has set herself up as a senior go-to player. Through the preseason games, she averaged 11.1 points per game.

Beck has performed well, too, adding 8.1 points while Hartlauer has chipped in 7.1. Liz Rowley is helping things out with 6.3 points per game.

The Spartans have had mixed results so far with wins over Bountiful, Woods Cross and Payson.

But losses to Provo, Mountain Crest, Mountain View and Snow Canyon have left Murray wondering which team will show up from game to game.


Murray Spartans basketball

BOYS

Class: 4A

League: Region 6

Last season: 12-10, 3rd in region play and lost in the first round of playoffs

Predicted 2007-08 Region 6 finish: Third

Coach: Jason Workman, fourth year

Assistant coach: Randy Chappell

Key returning players: Rhett Gardner, 6-4 forward, Sr.; Tanner Carr, 6-3 forward, Sr.; Zach Lloyd, 6-2 guard, Sr.; Markus Duran, 5-10 guard, Jr.

Key newcomers: Josh Brown, 6-0 guard, Sr.; Ken Masic, 6-3 guard, Jr.

Schedule

Nov. 28 — Murray 69, Hunter 43

Nov. 30 — Murray 57, Skyline 54

Dec. 4 — Murray 62, Mountain View 57

Dec. 14 — Murray 58, Taylorsville 55

Dec. 18 — Murray 63, Juan Diego 39

Dec. 21 — Riverton 52, Murray 45

Dec. 28 — West Jordan 73, Murray 43

Jan. 2 — Olympus at Murray, 7 p.m.

Jan. 4 — Murray at West, 7 p.m.

Jan. 8 — Murray at Highland, 7 p.m.

Jan. 11 — Murray at East, 7 p.m.

Jan. 15 — Murray at Granger, 7 p.m.

Jan. 18 — Cyprus at Murray, 7 p.m.

Jan. 22 — Murray at Cottonwood, 7 p.m.

Jan. 25 — Murray at Olympus, 7 p.m.

Feb. 1 — West at Murray, 7 p.m.

Feb. 5 — Highland at Murray, 7 p.m.

Feb. 8 — Murray at East, 7 p.m.

Feb. 12 — Granger at Murray, 7 p.m.

Feb. 15 — Murray at Cyprus, 7 p.m.

Feb. 19 — Cottonwood at Murray, 7 p.m.

GIRLS

Class: 4A

League: Region 6

Last season: 18-4, 1st in Region 6 but lost in 4A first round

Predicted 2007-08 Region 6 finish: Second

Head coach: Isacchar Beh, first year

Key returning player: Shay Kennedy, forward

Key newcomers: Christy Beck, Michela Hartlauer, Priscila Matemate, Liz Rowley, Amy Murakami

Schedule

Nov. 27 — Provo 48, Murray 36

Nov. 30 — Mountain Crest 67, Murray 61

Dec. 5 — Murray 70, Bountiful 52

Dec. 7 — Murray 47, Woods Cross 43 (OT)

Dec. 13 — Mountain View 55, Murray 34

Dec. 18 — Murray 56, Payson 55

Dec. 20 — Snow Canyon 63, Murray 37

Jan. 2 — Olympus at Murray, 5:15 p.m.

Jan. 4 — Murray at West, 7 p.m.

Jan. 8 — Murray at Highland, 5:15 p.m.

Jan. 11 — East at Murray, 5:15 p.m.

Jan. 15 — Granger at Murray, 5:15 p.m.

Jan. 18 — Cyprus at Murray, 5:15 p.m.

Jan. 22 — Murray at Cottonwood, 7 p.m.

Jan. 25 — Murray at Olympus, 5:15 p.m.

Jan. 29 — Cottonwood at Murray, 7 p.m.

Feb. 1 — West at Murray, 7 p.m.

Feb. 5 — Highland at Murray, 5:15 p.m.

Feb. 8 — Murray at East, 5:15 p.m.

Feb. 12 — Murray at Granger, 5:15 p.m.

Feb. 14 — Murray at Cyprus, 5:15 p.m.


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