Chargers claim 5A state boys basketball title; girls finish second
Mar 21, 2019 01:43PM
By Catherine Garrett
The Corner Canyon boys basketball team celebrates its first state title following a 62-45 win over Jordan March 2 at Weber State University. (Photo credit Jon Clifford/All-Star Photography)
By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]
The Corner Canyon High boys basketball team’s season may have started with a loss — a 10-point setback to Copper Hills — but the Chargers finished things in a historic way, bringing home the school’s first 5A state championship after a 62-45 victory over Jordan March 2 at Weber State University.
The girls team also made school history by reaching the 5A state championship game where Corner Canyon lost to East 72-65 Feb. 23.
The state final was the third meeting between Corner Canyon and Jordan this season with the Beetdiggers prevailing in the previous matchups by three and two points respectively. But the final game of the year was a different story. The Chargers used a huge third quarter to pull away in a close game to lead by 14 points going into the final quarter and continued to pour on the offense — scoring 22 more of the team’s 43 second-half points — in the 17-point win.
“It felt great to win state,” head coach Dan Lunt said. “I was very excited for the kids. They have put a lot of work in and it’s nice to see it all pay off.”
Hayden Welling dominated inside in the title game with 29 points and 15 rebounds while Gabe Toombs also recorded a double-double of 14 points and 10 boards.
In the first round of the state tournament, Corner Canyon defeated Wasatch 75-64 with Welling (25 points), Toombs (20), John Mitchell (15) and Andrew Heath (15) all scoring in double figures. The Chargers and Wasps were tied heading into the final quarter before Corner Canyon shot lights out — 83 percent — in the nine-point win.
The Chargers came out strong against Highland, leading by 10 points after the first quarter and held on for a 64-50 win. Toombs led with 20 points and 13 rebounds while Welling added 18 points and Mitchell 16.
In the semifinals, Corner Canyon avenged last year’s title game loss to Olympus with a 77-69 win over the Titans. The teams battled back and forth through three quarters before the Chargers outscored Olympus 27 to 13 to end the game. Toombs scored 29 points to lead Corner Canyon with Welling having a 25-point, 14-rebound performance, propelling the Chargers to the championship game.
“The keys to the state championship were great team defense and rebounding,” Lunt said.
Also on the 2018–19 squad were Arturo Aguero, Peyton Call, Josh Chandler, Cole Hagen, Phil Harris, Sam Jex, Jaxon Nielsen, Trace Ross, Tyler Thompson, Luke Warnock, Carter Welling and Brayden Witt.
“I will miss this group of seniors. We have put a lot of time in together,” Lunt said. “These young men have had the opportunity to make the Final Four in 2017, play in the finals last year and win a state championship this season.”
The girls team battled from behind the entire game during the championship matchup against East and, despite a combined effort of 55 points from All-State players Jaeden Vaifanua and Kemery Martin, Corner Canyon lost by seven.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the effort, heart and determination demonstrated throughout the entire game,” head coach Jeramy Acker said. “We didn’t play our best or most complete game in the championship which was difficult, although Jaeden and Kemery both came to play, combining for 55 of our 65 points, and we fought our way back to a 50-50 tie late in the game after being down by 17 points at one point.”
Some tough calls down the stretch forced Vaifanua to the bench while East drained free throw after free throw in the fourth quarter in particular.
“State champs was the goal for us, of course, but I honestly can’t be too disappointed with our outcome,” Vaifanua said. “Out of all the teams, we made it to the state championship game and we made history for girls basketball at our school. What we did as a team and with our coaches this year was really special and it was an unforgettable year for us.”
In the first round, the Chargers defeated Springville 62-48, turning a five-point deficit into an eight-point halftime advantage. Martin scored 25 points and Vaifanua added 18 in the win.
Vaifanua said it was a “huge relief” to finally get past the first round in the state tournament, a feat they couldn’t achieve the past two seasons. “Last year, we definitely never planned to lose in that first game and this year we also had that same goal except we wanted it even more because we didn’t want to relive that upset for the third time,” she said. “That was a huge step for us in general. It was really awesome to get past that trial with my team.”
Against Farmington in the quarterfinals, Corner Canyon used a 20-point second quarter to break open the game in a 60-43 win. Vaifanua led the way with 23 points while Martin had 17. The pair also combined for 19 rebounds.
In the semifinals, Corner Canyon outscored Skyridge by three points in the opening and final quarters of a close game to win 58-53. Martin scored 29 points with Vaifanua adding 14.
“Leading up to the championship game, we were extremely focused and playing quality team basketball,” Acker said. “Springville, Farmington and Skyridge all presented unique challenges and we were able to execute at an extremely high level throughout all three games.”
Martin said the team focused on one game at a time. “We looked at each game as a championship game,” she said. “We had our moments where frustration or fatigue kind of kicked in a little, but as a team we did a good job at helping each other shake that stuff off.
Acker credited his players, particularly senior center Marissa Wicherski for her “amazing job” down low against Springville and Farmington. “It was critical for us to utilize her skill and 6'2" frame on the defensive end,” Acker said. “Ultimately, Kemery and Jaeden certainly shined on the biggest stage to finish their high school careers off right.”
Also on the Chargers team this year were Academic All-State recipient Megan Astle along with Baylee Bodily, Marinn Duncan, Abby Kleinman, Natalie Newton, Zoe Nielsen, Alexa Orton, Maggie Ramos, Kira Rhay, Tricia Tanner and Alex Wright.
Martin said, “Everyone on the team played a part in our success and everyone bought into the things we were doing. That was personally my favorite thing. Everyone that was there was engaged and positive about the things we were doing and it made it so fun. I am just proud of all the girls and super thankful for the coaches and all their efforts.”
“I couldn’t be happier about the journey we have all gone through this season,” Acker said, noting their experience at the National Showcase La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 Invitational to begin the year. “That brought us confidence and team cohesion in a critical way which took us through an extremely challenging preseason before winning our second-straight Region 7 championship and a very memorable state playoff run.”