Byline: Josh Loftin
The Free Tax USA Shootout is one of the premier prep basketball tournaments in the Mountain West. This year, Wasatch Academy will join teams from Utah, Colorado, Washington and Hawaii in the round robin event.
The Tigers play four games. On this blog, we will give a brief summary of each game, embed the live streaming video for the next game and other insights. Read a preview of the tournament.
Game 1 recap: Overland 76, Wasatch Academy 65: Overland entered as the preseason #1 in Colorado and among the top 50 teams in the country, according to MaxPreps. Their team is anchored by the 6’9″, 230-pound De’ron Davis, who already has offers from programs like Arizona. In this game, especially in the first half, Davis lived up to his billing. Overland came out and immediately took control, with Davis dominating the smaller Tigers. At the end of the first quarter, the Trailblazers led by eight points. Although the lead fluctuated somewhat during the game, the Tigers never really recovered.
Koby McEwen led the Tigers with 27 points, although he was kind of a one-man show with Cody John suffering from flu and playing at about 60 percent. Shamiel Stevenson, who has struggled this season, finally showed his potential, scoring 15 points and collecting six rebounds while defending Davis most of the game.
The loss had upsides, however. The fact the Tigers did hang tough the entire game — and even cut the lead to six with about two minutes left — showed they can play with the best teams. Their young team, especially players like Stevenson and sophomore point guard Bryson Morgan, got valuable experience against the best competition. But Overland, which had a big frontline even without Davis, really highlighted the biggest weakness for the Tigers, their size. With no regular player over 6’7″, they will struggle against big teams.
Game 2 recap: Wasatch Academy 72, Denver East 43. The loss to Overland did not slow the Tigers down, as they came out aggressively and quickly took control with a 22-8 first quarter. Koby McEwen was the difference-maker early with 14 points in the first half, while Cody John helped seal it with a strong third quarter.
The two biggest upsides from the win for Wasatch Academy: rest and confidence. Even though their starters still played a lot of minutes, they didn’t need to operate in overdrive during the second half. With Lone Peak waiting in the wings tonight, this was an important win and an even more important easy win.
Game 3 recap: Lone Peak 68, Wasatch Academy 62.
Lone Peak has dominated Utah basketball for years, and currently has four consecutive state titles in the largest classification, 5A. The Tigers (as well as fans, media and critics) have wanted the two teams to face each other, not only because it would pit possibly the two best teams in the state, but also the two best backcourts and the two best coaches.
The game lived up to its hype, and was tight the entire way. Even better, the game never got chippy but instead showcased 32 minutes of top-quality high school basketball.
The Tigers jumped to an early lead, and had a shot at ending the first quarter with a double-digit lead. But a flurry of Lone Peak points, including a buzzer beater from 15 feet, shifted the momentum. Midway through the second quarter, Lone Peak had built its own lead, and the half ended 30-27 in favor of the Knights.
The Tigers came back in the third quarter, and the teams traded baskets until the quarter ended at a 43-43 tie.
When the fourth quarter hit, the Tigers began to show the effects of three games in 30 hours. Everybody looked tired, and two of the Tigers had injuries. Lone Peak took advantage and slowly pulled away, and then hit free throws in the final two minutes to preserve their victory.
While Wasatch Academy didn’t win, they proved they can play with the best in Utah. That alone will silence a lot of skeptics, while basketball aficianados will further appreciate what the Tigers bring to the gym.
Next up is Timpview at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Originally slated to start at 4 p.m., the game has been bumped so the tournament can broadcast the Tigers game on KMYU TV (in Utah, 2.2, 22 on Comcast, 12 on satellite) for the second straight day. You can also watch the game live below or on High School Cube.