HEBER CITY It could be said Wasatch fit the description of sleeping giant while struggling to find its bearings during back-to-back disappointing seasons.
You don't have to turn back the clock far to find evidence of the Wasps' prowess in boys basketball. Wasatch was 3A's elite team earlier this decade. It claimed consecutive state titles in 2002-03 and 2003-04 and narrowly missed a three-peat with a championship game loss to Tooele in 2004-05.
This season, the Wasps have finally re-emerged from the bottom of Region 10 to reclaim their contender status. And they've done it with a potent offense that produces 62.9 points per game second to only Bear River in 3A.
"We've all got a lot offensive potential," said senior guard Mike Pelo. "We've been working a lot on defense and we're getting a lot better there. But our natural skill and ability is definitely on offense."
Putting together one of the best offenses in 3A didn't come by accident for Wasatch. Only a small number 3A teams can match what the Wasps offer in terms of players who shoot and score in bunches with ease.
Pelo and Taylor Woodruff rank fifth and tenth among 3A scorers, averaging 17.0 points per game and 15.2 points per game, respectively. Woodruff and Brennan Hallows also provide a real threat from the perimeter. The duo have combined to make 72 three-pointers this season.
These statistics are just a sampling of the scoring potential Wasatch can draw on from one game to the next.
"We always joke that, man, if we had all five (starters) on in one night, we'd be really tough," said Wasps coach Lonnie Magnusson. "It always seems like somebody is having an off night, but there is always somebody else who can step up."
Wasatch had to do a bit of stepping up as a team after a rough preseason schedule led to a 2-4 start and conjured up fears of enduring a third straight losing season.
Earning victories required focusing on working harder than opponents. The Wasps figured they didn't have the size or pure athleticism to match most opponents, so they relied on quickness and teamwork to reinvent their fortunes.
Things turned around soon enough. Wasatch broke its early four game losing streak with a 49-41 victory over Mountain View. The Wasps finally climbed above .500 again in early January with blowout wins over North Sanpete and Waterford.
Success has been easy to come by since that time. Wasatch has won eight of its last ten games. Aside from Region 10 leader Judge Memorial, there are not many teams who have found away to take the sting out of playing the Wasps.
In order to take another step forward, however, there is still work to be done. Wasatch knows if it aspires to be a state champion again, its defense must rise to the level its offense currently occupies."It's going to be all on defense because everybody can score," Woodruff said. "I know me and Mike could throw up 35 a game if we really wanted to. But that won't win you a game. To win, you have to be able to play defense."