(The Dee Events Center) is a big venue and Weber High doesn’t have a great history in the playoffs, so guys wanted to come out and show well. —Weber head coach Ryan Jones
OGDEN — The Weber Warriors basketball program is not a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination. After all, the last time the Warriors won a state title was 47 years ago, in 1971, when the school was a member of the old AA classification.
Not only that, but according to head coach Ryan Jones, Weber has struggled to even win a playoff game in any of the past 30 seasons, advancing to the quarterfinals only a couple of times.
Slated to play the top-ranked Kearns Cougars in its first-round contest Tuesday night at Weber State University, it seemed almost a foregone conclusion that the Warriors' playoff journey would end almost as quickly as it began.
At the beginning of the contest, it appeared that was exactly what was going to happen. The Cougars looked bigger, which they were, faster, stronger and altogether more prepared. The Warriors on the other hand looked a little bit undone by the moment.
“I think it was (nerves),” said Jones. “(The Dee Events Center) is a big venue and Weber High doesn’t have a great history in the playoffs, so guys wanted to come out and show well.”
While they didn’t at first, or for much of the first half for that matter, the Warriors eventually showed out.
Schenck finished with a game-high 19 points, while Furqueron had 18. Brandon Capener added 15 points for the Warriors, while Kearns was led by Matthew Wickizer with 17 points.
“I’m stoked,” Schenck said after the victory.
That sentiment, while certainly appropriate after the upset victory, was not the overall feeling for the Warriors in the first half.
From the outset, Weber struggled on the offensive end. The looks were there, especially from the outside, but shots just would not fall.
“Nothing was falling for us, our shots just weren’t there,” said Jones. “They looked good and I thought we had a lot of opportunities.”
Fortunately for Weber, its defense was spot on.
The Warriors held the Cougars, who came into the contest averaging over 70 points per game, the second-best mark in 6A, to just 23 first-half points on 10-of-23 shooting. Kearns' leading scorer, Journey Buba, was limited to just four points in the half. He finished the game with eight, as the Warriors' zone defense packed the paint.
“We ran a lot of zone at ’em,” said Jones. “We started in zone and we definitely focused on making sure they couldn’t get the ball into the middle of the floor and dribble easily.
“The zone was needed because they are such an athletic team,” he continued. “You have to go to things like that if you want to beat a team like that.”
“They are athletic,” added Schenck. “We couldn’t really practice their length, but we weren’t scared at all. We knew if we packed it in we could win.”
While the Warriors trailed at the half by five points, there was optimism.
“No matter what, we win with grit. We have talked about that all season. Play with purpose and win with grit,” said Jones. “We just needed to calm down. I told them (at halftime) to have fun. I told them they were going to get to this moment very few times in their life, so they needed to enjoy it and have fun.”
They did that and more in the second half. The Warriors kicked off the half with an 11-4 run, eventually winning the third quarter by a score of 19-11. Furqueron was particularly impactful, totaling eight points, including two 3-pointers.
“That run was the key,” said Jones. “Starting the third quarter well is always the key. We tried to get a couple of easy ones early, and they knocked them down. That really got us going. You win games early in the third quarter, and that is what we did.”
In the fourth quarter, the Warriors turned to Schenck, and the junior did not disappoint.
Schenck scored 14 points in the final frame, helping the Warriors fend off any and all Cougar rally attempts.
“He is just that kind of guy,” Jones said of Hudson. “He is a leader and leads the right way, through his play. He doesn’t talk a lot or say a lot, but he just is a terrific kid and a tough warrior.”
Up next for the Warriors is a rare quarterfinal matchup against Pleasant Grove on March 1.