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The City Journals

A basketball flash back in Murray

May 10, 2017 10:07AM ● By Travis Barton

Alumni championship team member Randy Chappell brought his own cheering section to the game. (Carl Fauver)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
In their heyday years ago, they played before bigger crowds. And none of them, back then, had wives and children.
But even though a few wrinkles have come along since then, and the air under their jump shots is a little more shallow, the competitive spirit lives on.
“Sure, it’s fun to win, but the best thing about this tournament is seeing old friends,” said Randy Chappell. “I hope it never ends, because this is about the only time I still play any basketball.”
Chappell and his teammates were forced to double overtime before winning the championship, in the 44th annual Murray High School Alumni Basketball Tournament, 62-61.
“This is the oldest tournament of its kind in the country,” said Murray Parks and Recreation Coordinator Larry Killips. “But, I just hope we can keep it going. Years ago, we had as many as 24 teams involved. But this year, only six.”
If they can gather enough players from a single Murray High School graduating class, they will stick to just one. But most of the teams have to combine a couple of different classes.
This year’s championship game featured one team with players from 1999, 2001 and 2003. The other had players from 1992, 1995 and 1996, captained by Jeff Roberson. 
“We were the defending champions of the tournament,” Roberson said. “But this year, we were missing one of our key guys from a year ago.”
That ‘key guy’ is arguably the most famous Murray High School basketball alum—Britton Johnsen, from the class of 1997. 
After he and his brother, Jeff, led MHS to only its second state championship ever, in 1996, Britton went on to be a freshman on the 1997-98 University of Utah team that lost the NCAA championship game to Kentucky.
Not long after that, he spent time in the NBA, and also played in five different countries in seven years.  He’s now a public speaker and member of the Utah Jazz radio and television broadcast team.
“I hope my schedule will allow me to play again this year,” Britton said before the tournament.  “It was a lot of fun winning it last year…and it’s great to see all the guys again.”
But Britton’s schedule didn’t allow it this year, and his missing 6-foot-10 frame hurt Roberson’s team, as they lost the championship to a team with a 6-foot-10 center, and another 6-foot-8.”
“We’re disappointed and a little upset,” Roberson said. “We wanted to defend our title.  But it was fun.”
Roberson now spends his time slam dunking cavities (with fillings) rather than basketballs, as a dentist. “My family lives in Farmington, but my dental practice is in Taylorsville,” he said.
One of his alumni team members, Josh Lambourne, was an all-state basketball player in 1995.  That’s when Roberson, Lambourne and the Johnsen brothers helped get Murray into the state championship game, where they lost to Provo.
On the alumni tournament winning side, Randy Chappell was teamed with his brother Cory. Another pair of brothers—Brandon and Shawn Johnsen—were also on the team.
The alumni may no longer play quite as well as they did in high school, but they still know how to put on a dramatic show. 
“This is the third straight year our tournament championship game has gone to overtime,” Killips said. “And the second year in a row for double overtime.”
At the end of the first OT one players said “can’t we just be co-champions.”  It seems stamina may not be the same as it was a generation ago either.
In the end, Matt Dibb scored 20 and Parker Thomas 18 for the winners. Joey Stewart had 23 and Brian Anderson 14 for the runners up.
But as the players shook hands—and many of their kids raced out on the floor to shoot their own basketballs—the competitive spirit quickly gave way to comradery.
When asked if his team’s win would lead to a Saturday night out on the town, Randy Chappell said “No, it’s home to bed.” Then he and his wife loaded their young three kids into their minivan.
Times change.