Fine tuned |

Fine tuned

David Hampshire

A year ago on this date, when the 3A Utah Boys’ Basketball Championships began, the Park City Miners were on the outside looking in.

The team had just finished a dismal 2-18 season, which wasn’t nearly good enough for an invitation to the big dance.

Now set your clocks ahead one year. Today, the 2010 version of the Park City Miners are the second-ranked team in Region 10. After finishing the regular season with a 12-8 record (4-4 in Region 10), the Miners will face the Cedar City Redmen in the first round of the state playoffs in the Park City High School (PCHS) gym at 7 o’clock tonight. It’s the team’s first home playoff game in eight years.

Ah, what a difference a year makes.

Under first-year coach Caleb Fine, a 2004 PCHS graduate who played college ball at Newman University in Kansas, the Miners beat 4A East High School in their first game and jumped out to an 8-4 record before their league games began. The players reported that, under their new coach (the team’s seventh in eight years), the practices were more focused and more intense.

"He pushes a lot harder," co-captain Brian Schettler said in November. "We’ve worked way hard this year. Hopefully it shows."

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Their new coach (the youngest in the state) gave credit to a local youth program, begun six or seven years ago, for teaching boys the basics before they reached high school. That program produced many of the players on last year’s PCHS freshman team that went 27-0, winning the Judge Memorial High School Freshman Tournament to claim bragging rights as the best 3A freshman team in the state. Anchoring that team were guards Jon Schettler and Britton Buford, now key members of the varsity program.

On paper, the Miners should be considered the favorite in tonight’s game. Besides having the home-court advantage, they have a better overall win-loss record than the Redmen and have a better record against common opponents.

Fine said the Redmen finished the season 8-11 (7-5 in Region 9). Both the Redmen and the Miners defeated Manti and Canyon View. Against their third common opponent, Virgin Valley, Nev., the Redmen lost by five points while the Miners won by 10.

However, Fine isn’t taking anything for granted. "They’re a good basketball team," he said. "They’re tough."

Fine said Cedar City has a talented post player, Brandon Garrett, "who plays inside and out." Garrett is the team’s leading scorer with a 12-points-per-game average. Right behind him is guard Erik Makken, who averages 11 points.

But the strength of the Redmen, he said, is their defense. "They’re not going to blow a lot of teams out. the same token, they don’t get blown out."

Fine hopes to force the Redmen out of their deliberate style by trapping on defense and looking for fast-break opportunities.

"I’m convinced that if we defend for four quarters, rebound well and push the basketball, we’re going to do OK."

Oh, one other thing: Fine said he would love to see a big turnout from the local fans to give the Miners the hometown edge they’ve worked so hard to earn.

Should the Miners win Saturday’s game, they would play the winner of the Emery-Ben Lomond game in the second round of the playoffs on Thursday, Feb. 25, at Utah Valley University.