Eventually, playing tough 4A squads will help the Park City High School boys' basketball team compete against quality 3A teams.
But, until then, the young Miners are going to experience some growing pains.
One of those growing pains came on Wednesday night at PCHS, when 4A Springville came to town and, after a hard-fought first half, ran away with the game in the second half en route to a 68-44 rout.
"We were an average 3A team against a good 4A team and it showed," Park City coach Caleb Fine said. "We can't be average anymore. If we want to win, we've got to keep it a lot closer than that."
Led by Max Schreiner's 18 points, the Red Devils had three players score double-digit points against the Miners.
Fine said his squad gave up too many easy buckets to win, regardless of who the opponent was.
"Their shot chart was mostly layups," he said. "They only made two threes. I've got to do a better job preparing these guys for [opponent's] inbound plays we gave up about seven layups off inbound plays."
After a road loss to Skyline last week, Fine noted that the Miners needed to improve their rebounding and transition defense. On Wednesday night, when Springville only held a 13-10 first-quarter lead and a 28-17 halftime lead, he said there was improvement in those two categories.
But, he added, sustaining that improvement over the course of an entire game is the next step in the growing process.
"I thought, in the first half, we did a little bit better job rebounding than we did against Skyline," he said. "Konnor [Andersen] brought a better rebounding mentality. But we had a lot of turnovers in the first half. In the second half, we kind of flipped it around we cut back on the turnovers a little bit and then we forgot how to rebound."
In transition, Springville was a much stronger team than Skyline, so Fine saw some improvement in that aspect of the game, but said there's still a long way to go.
"We can't allow guys to dribble down the middle of the floor," he said. "We've got guys who are supposed to be in position and they don't really want to stop the ball. They like to reach with one hand."
However, since it's so early in the season and Fine is coaching a Park City squad that features only two seniors, he said it's way too early to panic.
"There are a lot of teaching points right now," he said. "Our youth is showing and we've got a long way to go, but I'm glad we get to keep competing."
Offensively, the lone bright spot was junior guard Bosten Van Der Veur, who, with 23 points on the night, accounted for more than half of the Miners' points. After scoring four points in each of the first three quarters, Van Der Veur notched 11 points in the game's final quarter. He also amassed four blocks, had a couple steals and grabbed several rebounds.
"Bosten needs to continue scoring for us he's a scorer," Fine said. "There's a lot we can learn from that. What I'm most pleased with about Bosten is every game, he's had a chase-you-down-from-behind block. He doesn't let one mistake lead to another. He doesn't lollygag back he sprints back and rebounds. He's a captain, he's a leader, he's a special basketball player and I'm glad we have him. It's not the Bosten show, but he obviously brought it tonight and he's going to keep us in some ballgames."
Reid Marks and Logan Holbrook each finished with five points. Andersen and Tom Wood each had four points and Beau Story chipped in three free throws. Fine said the rest of the Park City offense is only going to continue to improve as players learn their roles.
"We've got to try to continue to improve our spacing," he said. "This team took us out of what we wanted to do. They did a great job with ball pressure we weren't really able to run any of our sets or execute at all. But, ultimately, we've got to put guys in positions where they can be successful. I'm going to dial up a few more things, try to create some better spacing. We can't win scoring 40 points every night."
Some easy baskets would help, too, he added.
"We need to get some guys a couple easy buckets early, let them see the ball go in the hole," he said. "We've got some guys who can score and are capable of putting the ball in the hole, but, unfortunately, we haven't gotten them enough easy looks to build that confidence and help their mentality. If we're able to do that and build confidence in guys like Reid, it's going to help us a lot down the stretch."
After opening the season with two games against 4A schools, Park City played 3A North Sanpete on Friday night (after this issue went to press). Fine said it would be nice to see how the Miners stack up against their own level of competition.
"These 4A schools are beating up on us," he said. "I scheduled a hard schedule for a reason, and we've got a lot of hard games left. But, now we have an opportunity to play a team at our level. But, if we play like we played tonight, we should expect the same results."
Next week is a busy week for the Miner boys. After a road game at Payson on Tuesday, the Miners return home for games against Ben Lomond (Wednesday at 7 p.m.) and Taylorsville (Friday at 7 p.m.).