OGDEN Class 4A basketball fans will get a rare opportunity to see two defending champions go toe to toe in a quarterfinal game on Thursday. Both Provo and Pine View won state titles last season the Bulldogs in 4A and the Panthers in 3A.
Pine View is in an unusual position for a team only a year removed from taking home a state title. Because of realignment, the Panthers' bid for a repeat title comes within the confines of a new classification.
"Nobody can take that title away from us," said Pine View assistant coach Will Hokansen. "We'll always have that title. This year, our goal has been to go get another one."
Tuesday's 51-48 victory over Highland moved the Panthers' record against other 4A teams to 6-1. Pine View needed a huge third-quarter rally to get the latest win, after the Rams sprinted out to an 11-point halftime lead thanks to shooting 7 of 10 from behind the 3-point line.
But Highland could not score another 3-pointer the rest of the way, enabling the Panthers to make their comeback stand.
Provo will present a much harder challenge than the Rams. Unlike Pine View, the Bulldogs do not have to deal with the unfamiliarity of playing at the Dee Events Center. It is the same arena where they captured their most recent 4A championship a year ago.
For the players who returned from that team, coming back to Ogden almost feels like going to another home floor.
"It's one of my favorite places to shoot," said senior guard Adam Law. "It's almost like my basement."
It's not hard to see why after Law drained four 3-pointers and scored 15 points overall in Provo's 61-47 first round victory over Sky View. Kyle Collinsworth and Brandon Davies both shot like they played in Ogden all the time as well. Collinsworth exploded for a game-high 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting and Davies chipped in another 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
The Bulldogs certainly have enough talent on offense to hoist another championship trophy this weekend. Momentum is also in their favor. Provo has won 13 games overall and has not lost its last 18 contests against instate opponents.
If anything serves as a potential stumbling block, it might be playoff inexperience for the majority of this year's starting lineup. The Bulldogs returned only one starter from a year ago.
"I've been here, but these kids haven't," Provo coach Craig Drury said. "It's not like even the collegiate ranks where kids have been playing since they were freshmen."
For their part, Drury's players are resisting the temptation to compare themselves with last season's title-winning group.
"We've tried to erase last year's state championship just for this tournament," Law said.After dealing with Sky View center Jordan Stone, the Bulldogs will find no reprieve in trying to matchup with Pine View. The Panthers feature a pair of talented frontcourt players in Louis Garrett and Jordan Rex and the duo account for nearly half of Pine View's offensive production between them.