Mountain Ridge boys, girls basketball teams start season off strongDec 17, 2021 11:23AM ● By Justin Adams
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
High school basketball in the state of Utah got underway last month, and both the Mountain Ridge boys and girls teams got off to a hot start.
The boys team, coached by Scott Briggs, won its first four games by a combined score of 266-154. They are led by a strong senior class of six players, something the team has never had before.
“The very first year we had one senior. Last year we had two. This year we have six. We feel like this is the first year we really have a senior class,” Briggs said.
Even better, those six seniors all have accrued more experience than most seniors, as they were asked to play major varsity minutes as underclassmen.
“I don’t know if they were ready to play, but because of our dynamics, they were thrown into the mix. Hopefully that veteran experience will help us down the road,” Briggs said.
The team is led by captains Jake Fitton, Brantyn Van Dyke and Merrick Sherwood, all of whom are part of that senior class. From a purely statistical point of view, however, Briggs expects any of his players to be able to lead the team on any given night.
“We feel like we have good depth and that any given night, we have guys across the board who can really contribute offensively, guys who can put the ball in the hole,” he said.
After being moved up a classification during the summer, the team is now competing in 6A Region 3, which includes neighboring schools like Herriman, Riverton and Bingham. The prospect of playing schools where they know kids on the opposing team is exciting, said Briggs, who coached for years at West Jordan (one of the other Region 3 teams).
“The fact that we’re competing against other schools from this same little community, there’s no question that there’s a little more enthusiasm and interest in what’s going on,” he said.
That certainly appeared to be the case during the team’s home opener on Dec.1, a 62-46 win over Hillcrest. It was an early season game, but the Sentinels were backed up by a raucous student section that one normally sees later in the year for region rivalry games or playoff action.
“It’s fantastic for us,” Briggs said about the fan support. “When they’re making noise, it changes the atmosphere of the game. It does things to the opponent, it gives us a little more energy. Guys feed off of it. So yeah, I’m trying to convince some of those guys to bring even more of their friends.”
The Mountain Ridge girls basketball team is also off to a hot start (winning their first five games), but unlike their male counterparts, they’re winning without the advantage of a big senior class.
“We are very young, for sure. We have one senior year this year,” said head coach Kenzie Newton, who has been coaching the team since the school opened.
That senior is Meg Cummings, who was elected one of the two team captains.
“She’s a great leader and brings a lot of energy to the team,” Newton said. “The younger kids are really feeding off of that.”
The other team captain is junior Brynnlee Murdoch, who led the team in scoring last year.
One addition to this year’s team is freshman Addy Horsley who has already made an immediate impact, as she leads the team in assists with 4.5 per game, and is second in scoring at 9 points per game.
Horsley told the Herriman Journal she initially felt a little intimidated being asked to play such an important role on the varsity team as a freshman, but it’s helped to know that her teammates have her back.
One thing that stands out about the team is their aggressive style of defense. They utilize a full-court press on every possession, a decision which stems from the fact that the team is often under-sized compared to opponents.
“We’re not a very tall team, so we have to be scrappy,” Newton said. “We have players that like to get after it. Good defense creates easier offense. A lot of our baskets come off of steals so that’s definitely something we try to do.”
“Even though we don’t have the height, we’re always hustling and going after the ball. We put everything we have into each game,” Horsley added.
That formula seems to be working, as the team’s five wins so far this season (as of the Herriman Journal’s press deadline) is already more than its first two years combined. It’s a sign that Newton is continuing to build the kind of program she envisioned when she took the job two years ago.
“They get four years at the high school level and we just want them to enjoy every minute and have fun with basketball, make lifelong friendships and leave here knowing it was an awesome experience. Building that kind of culture is definitely one of our goals.”