The preseason is over. Now the games really start to matter for the boys and girls basketball teams from Tooele and Stansbury.
The Region 10 basketball season tips off this week in the best of ways, with Tooele and Stansbury doing battle the next two nights — the girls tonight and the boys on Wednesday. Sadly, it won’t be quite the same, with crowds limited because of COVID-19, but once the ball goes up in the air, I’m sure the intensity between the two county rivals will be just as high as ever.
It’s also a chance for the local squads to build some momentum after challenging non-region schedules.
Stansbury’s girls were picked to win the region title, but struggled to a 3-6 mark in the preseason. Tooele was 3-5. Both find themselves ranked in the lower third of the Class 4A RPI rankings. But the thing about Region 10 is that everyone else is in the same boat. Juan Diego had the best preseason, and the Soaring Eagle are 4-5. Ogden is 3-4. Uintah is 2-6, and Ben Lomond and Cedar Valley each only won one game.
The girls’ region title is there for the taking for whoever starts stringing wins together. The chance to climb up the RPI and avoid a road game in the Class 4A state tournament is there, too. As even and wide-open as Region 10 appears to be this season, tonight’s game at Tooele High School could go a long way toward determining who gets the hardware at the end of the region season, and it might even be the difference between players sleeping in their own beds or boarding a bus before their first game of the postseason.
There is a clear favorite in the Region 10 boys’ championship race, as Juan Diego is off to a 7-1 start to the season. However, after that, it’s anyone’s guess how things will sort out. Cedar Valley and Uintah are both 4-2, and Stansbury is 4-4. Tooele is 3-6, but that’s a little bit deceiving, given the fact that the Buffaloes played a game against Morgan just before Christmas with only two healthy varsity players.
More importantly, the Stallions and Buffaloes are carrying some momentum into their rivalry game Wednesday night at THS. Both teams went 2-1 at the Steve Hodson Cancer Classic in Cedar City just before the New Year, with Stansbury beating Canyon View and Hurricane while Tooele knocked off Hurricane and Class 2A power Parowan. It wasn’t an easy preseason for either team, but things are certainly trending upward at just the right time.
A top-three finish in the region standings isn’t out of the question for either team, and both could possibly find themselves there. The Soaring Eagle aren’t unbeatable, either, and the Stallions (Jan. 15) and Buffs (Jan. 22) both get an early look at them on their respective home courts.
It was interesting to see how the preseason unfolded, but that’s all behind us now. Now, it’s all about the region title and building toward a deep postseason run.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He can’t think of any better way to come back from Christmas break than a good, old-fashioned rivalry game. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.