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South Valley Journal

Rams earn big upset in state boys basketball tournament

Apr 15, 2019 03:32PM ● By Justin Adams

The Highland High School boys basketball team prepares to take the court for its state quarterfinals game with Corner Canyon, Feb. 28 at Weber State University. (Photo by Mario Platero)

By Josh McFadden | [email protected]

Few teams end the high school boys basketball season with a win, but that doesn’t mean the year as a whole has to be a downer. 

The Highland Rams may have come up short in the Class 5A state tournament, but the team also picked up a huge victory to reach the quarterfinals.

After tying Murray for third place in Region 6, the Rams lost out on a tiebreakers and got the No. 4 seed for the state playoffs. This pitted Highland against Bountiful, the champions from Region 5, which had lost only one region game all season. On paper, it would be a short postseason stay for the Rams, but players and coaches had other ideas in the Feb. 26 first-round matchup, pulling out a 71-60 upset victory.

Of course, the way the game started, it looked as though Bountiful may win as expected.

Highland fell into a 15-8 hole by the end of the first quarter. With momentum on Bountiful’s side, Highland put together a 24-16 run in the second quarter to go up 32-31 at halftime. Head coach James Boyce wasn’t worried after the rough start.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” he said. “It usually happens every single game. We missed a lot of makeable, easy shots in the first quarter, and we found ourselves down. I simply told the team that we were going to make those shots and come back. Thankfully, that is what happened. The key is not to panic, and the players did that. They did a good job of keeping their poise.”

The Rams remained up by a single point heading into the fourth quarter after both teams scored 13 points in the third. In the final six minutes, Highland pulled away by hitting free throws and playing good defense. Four Rams scored in double figures. Jackson Hawes led the charge with 17 points, followed by Bronson Olevao’s 15-point effort. Christian Rich had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Liki Makaui added 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

“It was very satisfying to beat a team the quality of Bountiful,” Boyce said. “We went into the tournament with a lot of confidence, and we were playing well. That does not necessarily translate into a win, but in this case, it did, and it felt great.”

On Feb. 28, Highland played in the quarterfinals against Corner Canyon, which finished second in Region 7. Like it did in the first round against the Braves, Highland got down early. This time, however, it couldn’t recover. The Rams were down 25-12 at the end of the first quarter and lost the game 64-50.

“Corner Canyon just had too much and made too many plays to overcome the deficit,” Boyce said. “We battled and cut the lead to four in the fourth quarter, but they had too much. They were a very formidable team. I was proud of the players coming back. We just did not make the plays we needed to win that game.”

Rich had 12 points for Highland in the loss. Hawes contributed 11 points and seven rebounds. Corner Canyon would then upset defending 5A champion Olympus and went on to win the state title. 

The Rams finished the season with a 12-12 record. 

“We competed and made it close in almost every game,” Boyce said. “We always gave ourselves a chance.  The first-round upset of Bountiful was extremely memorable. There were a lot of kids that had been playing for two and three years for me (Makaui, Rich, Hawes, Olevao), and it is hard to see those kids graduate because you learn to trust them and really enjoy having them in your program.”