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The City Journals

Mustangs finding balance under new coach

Jan 29, 2019 04:20PM ● By Greg James

Blake Freeland has had an immediate impact on the Mustangs low post play. He is averaging 12.2 points per game. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James |  [email protected] 

As the Herriman High boys basketball team prepared for a contest at The Autism Awareness tournament in December, a referee looked at the sideline and mentioned to its coach he was coaching the wrong team.

“I had 20-plus years at West Jordan,” Mustangs head boys basketball coach Scott Briggs said. “Sometimes, the officials look at me and think I am wearing the wrong colors.”

Briggs takes over for one season as Herriman’s head coach and will transition to Mountain Ridge High School next fall. For this season, his focus is on improving the Mustangs.

They opened the season with an impressive 19-point win over the Provo Bulldogs. In the game, they jumped out to a 14-point lead; four players scored in double figures. 

“I feel good about [our season],” Briggs said. “We get frustrated with some defensive mistakes, and we have some things to clean up. At the end of our day, it is good to see our big guys establish themselves inside. We have had a lot of close games, and we are moving in the right direction.”

A preseason 9-7 record has helped the Mustangs prepare for the regular season. Briggs expects them to be in the hunt for a region title.

“We could be a team to beat when it comes down to it,” he said. “We are a well-rounded team. If the defense tries to shut down our inside guys, we turn the ball outside and feel confident with that and vice-versa. We are going to count on everyone.” 

Senior Blake Freeland has played a pivotal role under the basket. His strength has led to a team-leading 7.5 rebounds per game. He also averages 12.2 points. The 6-foot-6-inch junior Kase Peterson has also been an anchor inside for the team. 

Outside shooters Jael Vaughn and LeGrand Burgess have balanced the offensive attack of the Mustangs.

“They are playing hard,” Briggs said. “I think having a new coach coming in is hard. We have made mistakes with effort, and that is OK.” 

The biggest win of the season may have been against Bingham in its next-to-last preseason game. The Mustangs held a nine-point lead at halftime. Despite a furious comeback from the Miners, the Mustangs were able to hold on and send the game into overtime. After overtime, the game was still tied. In the second OT the Mustangs pulled away for the 64-59 victory. Freeland scored 23 points in the win.

The Mustangs opened region contests Jan. 18 (at West Jordan) and Jan. 22 (against Riverton), both after press deadline. Both games could be a barometer of how the season will end up. Last season, they were swept by both opponents.

Herriman competes in the Utah High School Activities Association Region 3 against Riverton, West Jordan, Copper Hills and Taylorsville. Last season Herriman finished fourth with a 2-6 record.

Briggs is excited at the opportunity he has to work with the Mustangs.

“Twenty-plus years at one school, but it has been a great transition,” he said. “The families and kids have been great. I think I will be uncomfortable to go back and compete (against West Jordan), but I love them and my new team, so at the end of the day, we need to compete.”