The Miners are the unofficial “Kings of Summit County” following its victories over North and South Summit last week
On Tuesday night at Park City High School, when the clock in the gym hit zero, the Miners boys basketball team gathered around midcourt and celebrated. Not only had they defeated cross-county rival South Summit High School 58-36, Park City was celebrating the fact that they were the “kings of Summit County.”
“It’s been a long time since we can say that we were the kings of Summit County, so winning tonight definitely means a little bit more than usual,” said Park City coach Thomas Purcell. “I think it’s of great importance that you beat the people around you. We could’ve not scheduled them but that’s not who we are… So not only did we schedule them, we beat them and it feels good to do that to our rival Summit schools.”
Four days before the Miners took down the Wildcats, they traveled to Coalville to take on North Summit in another county matchup. Led by five players in double-figures, Park City defeated the Braves 70-57.
It’s been five years since the Miners could lay stake to this claim, something that was clearly on the mind of Purcell and the boys entering the season.
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“It’s definitely something we thought about because nobody wants to lose to their rivals five years in a row,” Purcell said. “We talked a lot about respect this season, and because respect can’t be given, the only way you can get it is to have to earn it. And so we made it a goal to not only gain people’s respect, but to do so by beating them.”
Park City is off to its best start in three seasons, sitting at 3-1 with victories over both Summit schools and Snow Canyon to start the year. Despite its 51-39 loss to Morgan in the second game of the season, Purcell was very encouraged.
“We didn’t shoot well against Morgan, in fact it was probably the worst I’ve ever seen our team shoot since I’ve been here,” Purcell said. “We actually had more field goals than they did in the game, but they just knocked down their free throws. Our defense kept us in it against a pretty good team and that’s been incredibly encouraging for us.”
It’s been a total team effort for Park City this season, something that Purcell and some of the players alluded to as to what’s been missing in the past. Under their first-year head coach, the Miners have embraced Purcell’s “we” theme, and it’s been reflected on the court.
“Right now the team is really buying into what I’m teaching and embracing our new ‘we’ philosophy,” Purcell said. “The enthusiasm and energy we have had in practice and games has been fantastic. Nothing greats happens without enthusiasm and I think that’s true and the boys truly believe that also.”
The biggest surprise of the season has been the play of sophomores Mitch Lind and Carson Tabaracci. While both players have started at certain parts of the season, they’ve each brought something special to the team to help propel the hot start.
“Mitch actually leads our team in minutes played while Carson has been a matchup nightmare for opponents,” Purcell said. “They both shoot the ball really well and I just think there’s something special within them. Their readiness to step into big roles has been huge in us getting off to this start.”
Lind is second on the team in scoring at 10 points per game, while Tabaracci had a season-high 15 points in the win over North Summit.
Senior Alex Obradovich has also been a welcome surprise as the 6-foot-4 forward has showed off a more complete skillset on offense while displaying surprising athleticism to defend quicker players. Also, 6-foot-6 center Alex Fugate is averaging a near double-double with 8.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game while junior Adam Spink is the team’s leading scorer at 11.3 points per game, knocking down a team-high 10 three-pointers on the season.
“I think each team finds its own rhythm or balance and settles into a certain style of play as the season goes on that works for them,” Purcell said. “I’m not opposed to playing 10 to 11 guys or 6 to 7 boys, it just depends on them and generally with how much I demand on defense, those who do that will play the most.”
Leading the team is senior Mark McCurdy, averaging 9.5 points, 4.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. While he’s been impressive all year, as was expected according to Purcell, what McCurdy did against North Summit is what makes him special.
“He did not score until the fourth quarter of the game but finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 assists,” Purcell said. “It’s hard to stay engaged when shots aren’t going down but he facilitated and played an outstanding all-around game. That says a lot about the way he plays and what brings to this team.”
Purcell believes the win over North Summit, particularly in the second half where the Miners scored 44 points, is a point where the season started to change and take shape. He believes that win the year is all said and done, Park City will be able to look to that game as the turning point.
“I think we definitely found ourselves a bit in that game, finding an identity that we can rely on when the going gets tough,” Purcell said. “I know we had a couple of technical fouls at the end of the game. … But I told the guys that I’d take a couple of technical fouls over being the soft kids from Park City. If that’s what we have to do to play the way we want to play, I get it and I’m all for it.”
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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.