Eagles boys basketball headed “right direction”
Jan 19, 2017 05:08PM ● Published by Travis Barton
Andrew Clark, junior power forward, takes on his defender against Park City on Dec. 28 at Olympus High School. (mylocalradio.com)
Gallery: Skyline Basketball [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
“The right direction.”
It is what boys basketball coach Kenny James and his captains used to describe the progression of the Skyline High School boys basketball season after beginning region play.
“We’re heading the right direction; I think we’re going to be tough to beat the rest of the way,” James said. “Overall I think we’re right where we need to be.”
While the team sits at 7-7 (3-1 in region), its record could be much different. Five of their games have been decided by five points or less. In those five games, the Eagles went 1-4.
James said it came down to the little things like uncharacteristically poor 3-point shooting or stretches of defensive lapses.
“We just got to fix those things and compete the whole time and not have those short little runs where we’re not getting it done,” James said.
“We started off the season a little rough,” said senior captain Ben Knight. “We’ve gotten some good wins but we look back on it and see some games we should’ve won. We have the potential to be really good.”
After playing a tough preseason schedule, senior captain Michael Vorwaller said it left the team battle tested for region play that includes defending state champion Olympus, as well as Hillcrest and Kearns.
“Playing really good teams has really prepared us for our region,” Vorwaller said.
While the team hopes to compete for the region championship, its goal is to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
“Been a while since we’ve been there … I feel like we’re an underdog so hopefully we can make some news,” Vorwaller said.
The Eagles’ potential could come down to intensity and execution, and the coach and captains emphasized it needs to be consistent.
“Sometimes we play two quarters and then kind of let up … we need to put a full game together and then take one game at a time,” Knight said. Defense also includes rebounding, something James has focused on for the team.
“Can we rebound? Are we going to be able to play against those thick teams? It’ll be a big factor going forward. We can get stops but we can’t give them multiple chances,” James said.
Talent is sprinkled throughout the roster. James said the team has excellent guard play behind his two captains and an athletic forward line in juniors Nifai Tonga and Andrew Clark.
James said both his guards are quick and solid defensively, noting how Knight, listed at 5'10", gets low to the ground, making it difficult for opponents to stay in front of him.
“It’s the old saying — ‘low man wins’ — no one gets lower than Ben,” James said of his point guard.
The way his guards play, he said, they’re able to spread teams out in the fourth quarter as the opposition wears down.
“If we can get the ball movement going, get the best shot possible every possession, we should be fine,” Vorwaller said.
Both James and the captains spoke of the camaraderie the team has cultivated this season, which has translated to the court around the turn of the year.
“The way they practice every day, they really like each other. It’s a nice tight-knit group,” James said. It has been James’ favorite part of the season so far.
Having played together since junior high, the seniors have experienced all the growing pains together.
“We just have a good friendship outside the court. We share the ball pretty well and our chemistry just naturally came,” Knight said.
With the team enjoying such unity, Vorwaller said he loves his senior season, having fulfilled a lifelong hope of his.
“It’s been my dream, for a long time, to be a captain here, so the fact I was able to be voted captain to try to lead this team to whatever we’re capable of is pretty special,” Vorwaller said.