(Duchesne) is the only other team I see (that can beat LCA). I haven’t really looked at (them) yet, but they’ll probably be the only stepping stone in our way to get to the state championship. —Rowland Hall head coach Ronnie Ross
For the likes Rowland Hall, Duchesne, Beaver, Parowan, North Summit and Millard, to name many of the best teams in the 2A classification, the greatest challenge of the upcoming state tournament is quite simple — the defending champions, Layton Christian Academy.
“(The biggest challenge) of course, always, is LCA,” said Rowland Hall head coach Ronnie Ross. “They are the team (to beat).”
For good reason.
The Eagles cruised in last season’s tournament, capping off their impressive run with a dominant 59-41 title game victory over Waterford.
Despite losing talented players like Christians Gutierrez, the Eagles picked up right where they left off this year.
Layton Christian went undefeated in the classification this season, with a 10-0 record in Region 16.
More impressively, they battled the likes of Wasatch Academy, Bingham and Timpview, to name a few, and defeated schools like Roy and West.
Needless to say, they are as battle tested as can be.
Leading the way for the defending champs has been Sano Gasana, a speedster who went from contributor last season to leading man this year. Gasana has averaged a team-best 13.8 points per game this season, followed by Braxton Meah with 10.0.
The Eagles boast the top offense in the 2A, averaging 70.75 points per game. While their defensive numbers have been less impressive, they are ranked 11th out of 19 schools, their attack has more than made up for it.
If there is to be a challenger to the Eagles throne, it is Rowland Hall. In their third season under the direction of Ross, the Winged Lions took a major leap forward this season, winning their region for the first time in 18 years.
“We are playing really well,” said Ross. “We had a really tough preseason, I made it like that. This being my third season I kind of knew that this was going to be the year (that we’d take a leap forward). We have been battled tested and everyone is ready to go.”
No Winged Lion has been better this year than Jack Dischmann. The senior has been as prolific as a scorer as they come, dropping 45 points one night, 35 another.
“(Jack) has been our MVP all year. He is one of the top shooters (in the state) and our best player.”
After the Winged Lions, the Duchesne Eagles pose the biggest threat to Layton Christian, and have the benefit of significant familiarity with champs.
In the two games the schools played against one another this season, Duchesne lost by 14 points at Layton Christian and then by just one at home.
“(Duchesne) is the only other team I see (that can beat LCA),” said Ross. “I haven’t really looked at (them) yet, but they’ll probably be the only stepping stone in our way to get to the state championship.”
A dark horse in the tournament may be the North Summit Braves, who made a deep run in the state tourney last season, but with a lot of new parts have taken a while to gel.
“They are excited to be there, excited to play and they hope to be able to keep on playing,” North Summit head coach Aaron Preece said of his team. “We brought back one starter and a couple of guys that came off the bench for us (last year), so it has taken us the season, but I think they have come together and are trusting each other more both on offense and defense.”
As for other potential contenders, Preece noted, “Parowan, Millard and Beaver are all tough. Their records might not show it, but they are all tough teams, physically and mentally and well-coached. There are a lot of good teams in the tournament.”