Basketball preview: Cedar City High School

CEDAR CITY — The Cedar City Reds basketball teams are looking forward to the upcoming season. The Lady Reds have all five starters back from last year’s remarkable state championship season, during which they went 25-0. Meanwhile, the boys team, which didn’t qualify for the playoffs, hopes to turn things around under a longtime former assistant coach who is returning to the team to take the helm as head coach.

Cedar City Reds girls basketball

The Cedar City Lady Reds, who finished their undefeated season by beating Ridgeline 53-40 in the 4A championship game last February, have all five starting players returning to action, with seniors Japrix Weaver, Mayci Torgerson and Denim Henkel joining juniors Samantha Johnston and Logann Laws on the floor.

“We’ve had a real good offseason,” third-year head coach Corry Nielsen told Cedar City News Friday night as his team was preparing for a scrimmage on preview night. “We had some injuries in the summer, but everyone’s back, healthy and we’re excited and all ready to go.”

Coming off the bench for Cedar will be a capable supporting cast of returning players, including seniors Emme Brower and juniors Jaidi Willden and Abby Davis. 

Nielsen said fans can expect to see the Lady Reds continue to play their signature relentless defense this season. Cedar held its opponents just under 39 points per game last year, while scoring an average of 57.5.

“That’s who we are,” he said. “We’re not gonna change who we are. That’s how we practice, and that’s how we play.”

Cedar’s first game was Tuesday night, when the Lady Reds beat Emery, the two-time defending state 3A champions who also went undefeated last season. 

Mayci Torgerson drives to the basket, Cedar City High girls basketball scrimmage, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 22, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Emery has won 40 straight ball games and are like 75-3 over the past three years,” Nielsen said. “So we’re starting off with a fantastic team, and that’s okay. I think we’re ready for the challenge.”

Cedar’s next game after that will be at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas on Dec. 6.

Then following weekend, in mid-December, the Lady Reds’ tough schedule continues as they travel up north for three games against larger schools: Timpanogos on Dec. 12, Bingham on Dec. 13 and Copper Hills on Dec. 14. Bingham defeated Copper Hills for the state 6A title last season.

Cedar’s first Region 9 game is at Hurricane on Dec. 11. They’ll also host region rival Dixie the following week, on Dec. 18.

Then, during the Steve Hodson Cancer Classic in Cedar City Dec. 26-28, the Lady Reds will close out their busy month with games against Tooele, Ogden and Stansbury.

Cedar City Reds boys basketball

New head coach Mark Esplin is taking the helm of Cedar City’s boys squad, where he served as an assistant coach for 18 years before switching to assist the Cedar girls team two years ago.

Now, Esplin says he’s ready to go back to the boys team and take over head coaching duties. 

Dallin Grant of Cedar City High boys basketball team competes in a slam dunk contest, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 22, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I’ve got a mixture of emotions leaving the girls, who were a great team. They’re going to be really good again this year,” Esplin told Cedar City News before Friday night’s public preview event and scrimmage games.

“Coming back to the boys, I’ll be trying to rebuild the program that was here before,” he said. “We went to state eight straight years and we had more playoff wins than any other team in the state during that run. So it’ll be nice if we can get back to that point.”

“We’re going to be really young,” Esplin added, noting that the only two seniors on the team are Landon Barney and Branson Coates.

Returning starters include juniors Treyton Tebbs and Dallin Grant, who won Friday night’s three-point shootout and slam dunk contest, respectively (although Tebbs did get edged out by Lady Reds senior Japrix Weaver in the girls vs. boys shootout showdown, 21-17). 

Other players expected to be significant contributors include sophomore Zab Santana and juniors Gaige Savage, Dallin Peterson and Jaron Garrett. Garrett, who was also the football team’s starting quarterback, made the play of the day Friday night when he swished a crowd-pleasing 60-foot shot at the buzzer to end the scrimmage game.

Esplin said he’s hoping to see a more unselfish style of play from his team.

“You give up the ball to get a better shot,” he said. “You get the ball to your teammates.”

The Reds will start off their season with a Dec. 5 game at Enterprise, which will be followed by a home game against Juan Diego Catholic High School on Dec. 7.

Then, on Dec. 10, the Reds will host Hurricane for their first Region 9 contest. Cedar will also play another region game the following week, at Dixie on Dec. 17.

In between those games, Cedar will travel to Utah County to play two games: at Cedar Valley in Eagle Mountain on Dec. 13 and at Lehi the following day.

Then, right after Christmas, the Reds will play in the annual Steve Hodson Cancer Classic in Cedar City Dec. 26-28. 

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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