For Stansbury High School’s entire history, the boys basketball program has fought an uphill battle, struggling to win games while the school’s other boys athletics programs thrived.
The Stallions have rarely been a threat on the hardwood. In their first six seasons, they never made the state tournament, let alone competed for a region title. When February rolled around, Stansbury was left on the outside of the state tournament looking in, wondering when its breakthrough would finally come.
Last season, they made it to the state tournament for the first time, only to be rewarded with a long bus trip to St. George to be blown out by perennial powerhouse Dixie.
But the 2016-17 season was a chance at a fresh start. A new coach — Joe White — brought in a new philosophy. The players bought in despite a rough pre-region season that saw the Stallions play all but two of their first dozen games on the road, and since the start of Region 10 play in January, the Stallions have shown plenty of promise.
Will it turn into a trophy in the Stansbury High trophy case this weekend? That remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain — there is a whole different attitude around the Stallions these days.
Early in the season, these seemed like the same old Stallions when they lost their first six games — albeit against top-level competition. Many teams might throw in the towel after enduring such struggles, particularly in a program like Stansbury’s that averaged fewer than six wins in its previous seven seasons.
Instead, the Stallions enter this weekend one win away from tying their single-season record of nine victories. Their win over North Sanpete in last Friday’s first-round playoff game was their first state tournament win, and sent them to the state quarterfinals, leaving them as the last team from Region 10 left standing in the state tournament.
Are the Stallions underdogs at this point? Absolutely. Their next two games — Thursday’s matchup against Desert Hills and Friday’s game against either Ridgeline or Carbon — are certainly steep challenges. A win in either of those two games would be considered an upset by many, considering Stansbury’s 8-13 overall record.
It would also help the Stallions further cement their place on the Utah high school basketball map. And that’s what seniors Jase Wanlass, Casey Roberts and Sam Frazier hope to do in these final games of their respective prep careers.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He’s still impressed by Stansbury’s comeback against North Sanpete. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.