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The City Journals

Highland boys basketball back in region action, ready to contend

Jan 29, 2019 04:48PM ● By Josh McFadden

Highland boys basketball player Christian Rich (No. 33 in the dark jersey) drives past a defender on the baseline. (Photo courtesy Highland basketball)

By Josh McFadden | josh@mycityjournals.com

After playing a challenging non-region schedule, things might not get a whole lot easier for the Highland boys basketball team now that it’s in the heart of Region 6 play.

The Rams faced the likes of Westlake, Bingham and Herriman in non-league games and entered the Region 6 portion of their schedule with a 7-5 record. Three of those losses came by five points, with another setback being decided by just three points. On the other hand, the Rams enjoyed some comfortable victories, including three wins by at least 14 points. 

The battle-tested Rams know region play matters even more. Head coach James Boyce said the team has plenty of improvements to make in region games.

“We have a little work to do,” he said. “We have had some good games, but then some where we have struggled. We need to take care of the ball and execute offensively better. We are looking to have more consistency in our play.”

 Last season, Highland only lost two region games, both to an invincible Olympus squad that ended up going undefeated and winning the 5A crown. Though the Titans once again look formidable, they also aren’t quite as dominant as they were a year ago. On the other hand, fellow league rivals East and Skyline are no slouches and could stand in the way of the Rams’ success in competing for top spots in the standings.

In fact, Highland fell to East in the region opener, 43-38 on Jan. 11. Playing in front of East’s home crowd, Highland struggled offensively, putting up a season-low in points. Highland scored just 15 points after halftime after finding itself down 24-23. Christian Rich tallied 19 points, but no one else reached double figures. Bronson Olevao did put together a solid seven-point, nine-rebound effort. 

Rich’s output in the region-opening loss was no surprise. He has been the team’s leading scorer all season long at around 18 points per game. The senior hit double figures in points in 11 of the team’s first 12 games and even chipped in five rebounds and a pair of assists a game. 

Liki Makaui is second on the team in scoring. The senior had an off night against East but managed at least 10 points in each of his first seven games. His scoring is up about a point from last season. He also leads the team in rebounding with more than six boards a contest. Jackson Hawes is contributing nine points per game, while Nate Warr accounts for around six points every night. Both Hawes (a senior) and Warr (a junior) have significantly increased their scoring from a year ago. 

“[Makaui] has been very solid this year,” Boyce said. “[Rich] has been very consistent.”

Along with balanced scoring, Highland has hung its hat on tough defense. The Rams gave up just 57.6 points through their first region game. Only two teams scored at least 70 points on Highland during this stretch, and the Rams kept three opponents under 50 points. 

Highland plays each region foe twice and will get back to the 5A state tournament if its finishes in the top four of the six-team region. Highland’s final region and regular season game is Feb. 19 at home against Murray. 

The Rams have qualified for the state tournament every year this century and captured state titles in 2002, 2006 and 2011. 

“We definitely need to rebound and defend better,” Boyce said. “If we can do that and we keep getting better offensively, we should be fine. It is about constantly improving. It is a long hard season with a lot of challenges, and a great deal of a players success depends on how they individually and collectively overcome adversity.”