Braves bag state title
Four months of sitting atop the 2A rankings, 22 total wins, eight wins in region play and four of the most talented seniors North Summit High School has ever seen, were no match for the feeling that one state championship brought to the team, the school and the community in general.
The moment was surreal for Braves head coach Jerre Holmes as his team sealed the 2A Utah High School State Baseketball Championship with a decisive 62-53 win over Millard on Saturday night.
The state title ends a 15-year championship drought. The Braves last won it all in 1992 their last year in the 1A classification.
The week was an exhibition of the talent and teamwork of North Summit, who won every game in the 2A State Tournament by at least nine points or more.
"I think they all did well," said Holmes. "Everybody has a role. That’s what won it for the team."
The championship win wasn’t guaranteed throughout the game. The Braves fettered away a 10-point lead after the first quarter with poor shooting in the second. halftime, the Braves were down by four points, but Holmes wasn’t too worried. He said that the senior leadership and experience that had led the team all season helped the team regroup and make the necessary changes needed to win the game.
"I’ve watched these guys long enough. I wasn’t panicked," Holmes said.
North Summit came back in the third quarter, outscoring Millard 16-10, and giving themselves a two-point edge heading into the fourth quarter.
"We took care of business before the final minutes," Holmes said. "We just seemed to have a real good third quarter."
The slight lead allowed the Braves to relax in the fourth quarter and just play the team-oriented style of ball that brought them so much success all year long.
"It took the pressure off and we were able to have some fun," Holmes said.
Senior Garrick Richins had six steals for North Summit in the second half and Chuck Woolstenhulme and Drew Robinson both dominated on the boards. Senior leader Kamren Garfield also had a big second half, hitting most of his shots. He finished the game with 16 points, right behind Robinson’s 17-point effort.
"All the hours Kamren spent practicing paid off," Holmes said.
Garfield struggled late in the season after starting the year with 30-point nights. But he peaked at the right time, averaging 15 points per game and leading the team in scoring in the 2A tournament.
"This championship was impressive, because they wanted it," Holmes said. "Sometimes it’s easy to be the favorite and expect it to fall in your lap and it doesn’t happen. I thought our kids were as focused as I’ve ever seen them."
After the buzzer sounded, the team was awash with different emotions, but for Holmes it was centered on how happy he was for the boys.
"I was caught up with thinking of how great it was to be a part of it," Holmes said. "For me it was relief and gratitude."
The North Summit boys’ march to this moment was a long time in the making. The boys first started playing basketball together in fourth-grade. Many have said that they always felt they could be a group that could make some history happen.
"They’ve spent a lot of years thinking about this moment," Holmes said. "I’m tickled for them."
Holmes admitted that about four week ago, he gathered the team together to discuss the impending possibility that they might be hoisting the state trophy at the end of the season.
"There’s no sense in skirting the issue," Holmes recalls telling his team. "I said ‘We have a really good chance to be state champs and that needs to be our focus.’"
Although it might have made things more devastating had the Braves lost in the tournament, Holmes just wanted to make sure everyone was ready for the weeks ahead. But Holmes admitted that the knowledge of knowing a team can do it is far from the reality of actually doing it.
"Talking about it isn’t even as close as when it happens," Holmes said. "Just realizing a goal is exciting."
Holmes estimated that most of the town seemed to be at the Southern Utah University arena, easily outnumbering the Millard crowd 2-1. Holmes says that the community support has been part of the team’s success all year long.
"It’s what you dream of and to share it with that many people made it fun," Holmes said.
The excitement continued into Monday night, when the school held an official celebration for the team, and allowed the community an opportunity to view the trophy and congratulate the team.
Holmes is also hopeful that this success will continue into next year. Many of his varsity players will remain and he will welcome players from the junior varsity team that lost only one game this season.
"We should be good to go next year," Holmes said. "I told the seniors that they were the pioneers."
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