With region play here, the Hunter basketball teams just might take the fifth — place that is.

According to Region 3 coaches' predictions, the Wolverines' boys and girls teams are expected to finish fifth, which would leave both out of the playoff picture. Not surprisingly, both Hunter coaches believe their teams are capable of exceeding those low expectations and earning one of the four spots the region has for postseason play.

Here's a look at each Hunter team:

GIRLS: The Wolverines only have three victories — including their region opener — but new coach Jack Ballard believes the best is yet to come for Hunter.

"We're going to be a good second-half-of-the-season team," said Ballard, who came to Hunter after previously coaching the Wasatch Academy boys.

Ballard is trying to help his young girls — the team only has two seniors — focus on improving their fundamentals, learning the game and getting used to the new coaching staff's ways. That will help them, he hopes, "peak at just the right time." With "a great group of juniors," four sophomores and two freshmen on the roster, that could pay off in the future.

"We're kind of building a program," he said. "We graduated seven seniors, but we don't necessarily believe this has to be a rebuilding season because we've got good athletes and girls who want to play."

Senior Katrina Iosua is Hunter's leading scorer, but she has been a bit hit-and-miss this season. She is averaging just under seven points and is one of eight Wolverines averaging between 2.6 and 6.7 points per game. Iosua exploded for 20 points in Hunter's 62-50 Region 3 victory over Copper Hills earlier this week. Innie Pataialii is next in scoring with 5.5 ppg.

Iosua said Hunter has lofty goals despite its relative inexperience.

"We want to take region champs," she said, adding that going to state is definitely a goal for the team that hasn't had a winning season in recent memory.

"The first goal is to get a game in state," Ballard added. "And to just be playing our best basketball at the end."

Ballard credited his "outstanding seniors" — Iosua, a swing player, and center Liz Sweet —for their leadership. He believes they can help the quick, athletic Wolverines improve as the season progresses.

"That second half of the region season and in the playoffs, I think we're going to surprise a lot of people," Ballard said. "This team is going to have a lot of heart."

BOYS: Considering the past few years, it's almost hard to believe the Wolverines were 5A champions and 21-4 only four seasons ago. They went 8-13 in 2006-07 and that was a vast improvement over the previous two campaigns in which they combined to win just four games, including a rough 1-20 record in 2005-06.

But despite the tough times of late and low expectations by opposing coaches, Hunter coach Dave Filimoehala has higher hopes for his squad than most in Region 3. He believes the Wolverines can finish in the top three with West Jordan and Bingham, putting them back in the playoff hunt.

Filimoehala calls his team, which opens league play tonight at home against West Jordan, "strong with good quickness but not much depth."

A.J. Pataialii, a junior forward, is leading Hunter's offense with 13.7 points per game. Senior Austin Pollock, a 6-foot-7 center, is the only other Wolverine averaging double figures at 11.6 ppg. Junior guards Jeff Poole and Fernando Perez and senior guard Harold Moleni are other contributors.

E-mail: jody@desnews.com

Hunter Wolverines basketball


Class: 5A

League: Region 3

Last season: 8-13

Predicted 2007-08 Region 3 finish: Fifth

Coach: Dave Filimoehala

Key players: Jeff Poole, Austin Pollock, Harold Moleni, A.J. Pataialii, Fernando Perez


Nov. 20 — Box Elder 63, Hunter 53

Nov. 28 — Murray 69, Hunter 43

Nov. 30 — Hunter 59, Tooele 52

Dec. 4 — Taylorsville 64, Hunter 57

Dec. 7 — West 42, Hunter 30

Dec. 11 — Highland 51, Hunter 41

Dec. 14 — Hunter 55, Wasatch 53

Dec. 18 — Hunter 56, Morgan 51

Dec. 21 — Hunter 56, East 54

Jan. 4 — Skyline 47, Hunter 31

Jan. 11 — West Jordan at Hunter, 7 p.m.

Jan. 15 — Hunter at Riverton, 7 p.m.

Jan. 18 — Kearns at Hunter, 7 p.m.

Jan. 22 — Hunter at Bingham, 7 p.m.

Jan. 25 — Hunter at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.

Feb. 1 — Hunter at West Jordan, 7 p.m.

Feb. 5 — Riverton at Hunter, 7 p.m.

Feb. 8 — Hunter at Kearns, 7 p.m.

Feb. 15 — Copper Hills at Hunter, 7 p.m.

Feb. 20 — Bingham at Hunter, 7 p.m.


Class: 5A

League: Region 3

Last season: 8-11

Predicted 2007-08 Region 3 finish: Fifth

Coach: Jack Ballard

Key players: Katrina Iosua, Liz Sweet, Innie Pataialii


Nov. 20 — Hunter 45, Cyprus 44

Nov. 27 — Jordan 48, Hunter 21

Nov. 28 — Clearfield 43, Hunter 42

Dec. 5 — Skyline 90, Hunter 30

Dec. 7 — Hunter 74, Granger 40

Dec. 13 — Hillcrest 39, Hunter 36

Dec. 15 — Logan 62, Hunter 41

Dec. 18 — Pleasant Grove 55, Hunter 40

Dec. 21 — Woods Cross 52, Hunter 35

Dec. 28 — Taylorsville 59, Hunter 38

Jan. 8 — Hunter 62, Copper Hills 50

Jan. 10 — West Jordan 54, Hunter 27

Jan. 15 — Riverton at Hunter, 7 p.m.

Jan. 17 — Hunter at Kearns, 7 p.m.

Jan. 24 — Bingham at Hunter, 7 p.m.

Jan. 29 — Copper Hills at Hunter, 7 p.m.

Jan. 31 — West Jordan at Hunter, 7 p.m.

Feb. 5 — Hunter at Riverton, 7 p.m.

Feb. 7 — Kearns at Hunter, 7 p.m.

Feb. 12 — Hunter at Bingham, 7 p.m.