Park City picked up its first region win of the year with a 73-64 win over Salem Hills on Tuesday
The Park City High School boys basketball team found itself in a familiar spot on Tuesday night.
The Miners were leading Salem Hills midway through the fourth quarter at home. However, the Skyhawks were in the midst of a big run, trimming Park City’s lead from 18 to start the quarter all the way down to five with four minutes to play.
But that night wouldn’t be like the previous ones Park City found itself in. Coach Thomas Purcell called a timeout to calm his team, and this time the Miners came away with a 55-48 victory.
“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.”
The win was Park City’s first in over a month and their first in Region 8 — the Miners now find themselves at 5-12 overall and 1-9 in the region.
Park City seemed poised to build off that first victory when it traveled to Heber on Thursday night to face rival Wasatch. Despite leading 33-30 at the half, Park City struggled in the third and fourth quarter before its late comeback attempt came up short in the 73-64 loss. Still, the loss was a vast improvement from the first time these two teams met three and a half weeks ago when Park City lost by 27.
While the breaking the losing streak was huge, according to Purcell it was much more of a mental block the Miners were clearing.
“This win gives us confidence that we belong and can win against these other teams in our region,” Purcell said. “I think that’s the biggest that was lacking going into region play, the unknown of whether we could compete with these teams with having just moved up. I think we were shocked the first couple of games by how good the other teams were and struggled to recover from that.”
Park City has had a rough go of things since it began region play to kick off the New Year.
Jumping up to Class 5A has not been kind thus far, as the Miners started off region play with eight consecutive losses. Making matters worse was that in many of the games, Park City was contending before a few mental lapses eventually cost them in the end.
“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 team because if we do, we’re a good team that can win.”
According to Purcell, not having that winning mentality comes from years of losing and struggling to close out tight games — Park City has yet to have a winning season since 2014. It got to the point to where the Miners had very little faith in themselves, knowing that at some point they were going to do something wrong and lose the game.
So fixing that mentality has been among Purcell’s top priorities when he took over as head coach earlier this season. After coming so close so many times, it felt great for Purcell and the boys to get over the hump.
“No doubt about it that we have had mental lapses in games that have cost us dearly, even wins, but right now we are in a very unforgiving league where you have to play perfect to win,” Purcell said. “Our league is crazy good so any time we make a mistake, we have to have the mental strength to overcome. … And I think we are still learning to how to do that. This win was a step in the right direction but now we have to keep building off that.”
Regardless, Purcell and McCurdy are encouraged by what they saw, noting how the Miners refused to quite when things didn’t go their way. They both believe that games like these will only continue to build Park City’s confidence and eventually lead to more wins at the end of the season.
“I think our mindset is to just keep doing what we are doing, understanding that basketball is a very long season,” Purcell said. “Even if you’re good, you’re going to lose games. … That’s just how it goes. It’s not a game of perfection, but rather one of overcoming and we are moving forward with that mentality.”
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.