Park City is set to begin the postseason on Wednesday against an opponent to be determined
Park City High School boys basketball has spent all season building up to this moment. Come Wednesday, the Miners will find themselves in some unknown high school gym, ready to face off against an opponent who, on paper, would appear to be much better.
But according to coach Thomas Purcell, whomever Park City finds awaiting them on the opposite side of the court will be in for a much bigger fight than they expect.
“I do think that if we stay positive and together, if we don’t come apart as a team, we will be good at the end of the year,” Purcell said. “I have all the faith in the world in this team. Our goal is to be a cohesive team at the end of the year and I still believe we can achieve that and then start over again in the playoffs where anything can happen.”
Purcell believes that the Miners’ 1-12 record in Region 8 doesn’t reflect the overall talent and skill level of the squad. For instance, the strides Park City has made over the past few weeks have been momentous, and if not for some rough officiating or small breakdowns in a few of the games, the Miners’ record would be a lot better.
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“We play in what is the toughest region in 5A, with the seven other teams in our region all ranked within the top 20 of the RPI rankings,” Purcell. “When we get to the playoffs, I think we will be one of the most battle-tested teams in the entire state. Things have started to turn around for us and we are really finding our way, which will make us a tough out.”
Park City broke the losing streak with a 55-48 victory over Salem Hills on Feb. 4 — a game in which the Miners led for nearly the entire time. After entering the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead, Salem Hills caught fire from deep but Park City was able to hold them off with key free throw makes and the ability to take time off the clock.
“I told them that when good teams have the lead with four minutes to play, they can lock the doors and send the people home because the game is over,” Purcell said. “It’s been a long time coming but I finally feel like the boys understood the position we were in and pulled it out. Once we settled down, it was big for us mentally to get the win, helping validate all the hard work throughout the year.”
That victory was a small part of what started to turn things around for the Miners, but it didn’t come completely out of the blue. Senior leader Mark McCurdy had started to notice a change in practices and overall demeanor with the team a few weeks prior.
Against Spanish Fork on Jan. 24, Park City took the Dons to overtime before falling. That game was followed by a 56-48 loss to Maple Mountain four days later, the No. 3 team in RPI rankings — and also a game in which McCurdy and Purcell felt they shouldn’t have lost.
“I think we were starting to click a little bit more over the past couple of weeks. … And you could just see us paying and caring more about the small details,” McCurdy said. “The game against Maple Mountain I felt we should’ve won. … It was absolutely ridiculous. We played well that game despite everything that went against us. … It’s hard to win when they score 17 of their 19 points in the fourth quarter from the free throw line.”
But now it’s the start of a different type of season; the postseason.
It’s been a long journey to get to this point, but the Miners will be ready for it and have a lot more going for them outside of their record.
They’re battle-tested. They’re a veteran-squad. And they’re playing their best basketball at the right time. It’s a recipe for success, and exactly what Purcell, McCurdy and the rest of team are expecting to achieve.
“I felt like there were definitely a few games we should’ve won earlier. … Games where we played well but a few minutes in each game cost us,” said senior Mark McCurdy. “It was frustrating because each game you feel like you’re in it, like you’re going to win, but then a few things go wrong and now you’re out of it with no chance. We’ve had to learn how to stay focused the entire time because if we do, we’re a good team that can win.”
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.