North Summit seniors take shot at State
It turns out the secret to the North Summit boys basketball team’s success traces back to the fourth grade.
While their classmates were just trying to commit multiplication tables to memory, the boys that are now high school seniors were already dreaming of championships.
"We played together since fourth grade traveling everywhere. We went to Ogden and to Colorado" said senior Kamren Garfield. "We definitely thought, ‘what if that’s possible?’"
That determination has stayed with them. It’s what got them to the semifinal game in football last fall, what has kept them high atop the 2A rankings all season, helped them finish 18-3 in the regular season and locked their second straight Region 14 title.
This weekend, that drive will be put to test as the Braves look to earn their first state championship on the 2A level in the Utah High School State Basketball Championships at Southern Utah University. The last time they hoisted the state trophy was 1992, the year before they moved from the 1A class.
The seniors agree that the time is now.
"We knew from the beginning that we had a good shot if we kept improving," said Nathaniel Richins.
This unique senior class is led by Garfield, a prolific scorer, who also led the Braves at the quarterback position this fall. Although the senior struggled in recent games after starting out the year with 30-plus point nights, he is still the heart and soul of the team.
"I think he’ll step up, and we’re so well-rounded, when he doesn’t, somebody else does," Holmes said.
Garfield is surrounded fellow seniors, Nathaniel Richins, Garrick Richins and Chris Louder.
"We have a lot of good players to step up. That’s why it’s a team," said Garfield.
North Summit head coach Jerre Holmes says that this is a special group and their strength is in their numbers.
"I’ve said for 20 years, ‘You can’t win without your seniors. You are only as good as they are,’" Holmes said.
"It’s just the way we are," agrees Garrick Richins. "As long as we play together, we’re fine."
The seniors are well aware their childhood dreams may come to fruition on Saturday. They are trying not to look forward too far, but after exiting one game early in football in November, they know this is their last chance.
"We’re all pretty excited about it," said Nathaniel Richins.
Even with the spotlight glaring down on the boys all season, Holmes says attention has brought both positives and negatives. He welcomes the opportunity to show the state the rich athletic tradition in Coalville and says this team doesn’t have much trouble staying on task.
"They’ve been pretty focused. They have a goal in mind," Holmes said
"I don’t think it really affects us," Garfield said. "It shouldn’t anyways."
The bigger challenge has been the target on their backs — put there by other 2A teams. Every team comes prepared and ready when they play the Braves.
"Saturday I told them everyone except North Summit is cheering against us, because they don’t want to face us in the state finals," Holmes said.
Still, with the likes of North and South Sevier, Manti and Millard hot on their tails, the Braves aren’t taking any team for granted.
"When its tournament time, every game is tough," Garfield said.
Luckily, North Summit’s depth extends far beyond the senior class. Half of their bench is a serious threat on alternating nights, so creating a game plan to beat them is nearly impossible.
"We have an inside game and an outside game," Holmes said.
He says if the North Summit players can stay calm and focused and play the balanced game that has kept them on top, they should be able to triumph in the finals.
"If we play good team ball, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be state champs," said Garrick Richins.
The boys still wish that things had panned out differently on the gridiron, but they all agree that a state title in basketball would make up for any disappointment.
"This will be the last chance for most of us to get a state championship," said Louder. "After we lost in football, we knew this was our last chance."
They also want to bring some glory and excitement back to the Coalville community. Local fans regularly pack the Braves’ gymnasium and most of the town is in Cedar City this weekend.
"We get a lot of support from the community," Garrick Richins said.
"I think it would be huge," chimed in Garfield. "Prep sports is a big thing here."
Saturday in Cedar City, those fourth grade dreams just might come true.
"That would be awesome just to end like that," Garfield said. "It would be perfect."
The 2A Utah High School State Boys Basketball Championship game will be played Saturday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Southern Utah University in Cedar City.
In the first round of the championship tournament, the Braves soundly beat Beaver, 59-34. North Summit immediately shot ahead with a 20-9 lead in the first quarter, and three more consistent quarters gave them the easy win. Garfield was able to rediscover his offensive groove with an 18-point game. Junior Drew Robinson was close behind with 11 points. The victory sent the Braves to the semifinal game with North Sevier. A win puts them in Saturday’s championship game.
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