Utah Valley always has great high school basketball programs, teams that will be in the mix for state championships year after year.
In addition to the large public schools which have thousands of students, the area also has a number of smaller programs.
And they love the game of basketball just as much.
It’s a unique challenge to play hoops at an institution like American Heritage or Utah Military Academy-Camp Williams.
Those two teams put a lot of points on the board in Wednesday night’s Region 15 battle, with the American Heritage Patriots coming away with the 92-71 victory over the UMACW Marauders.
“This is my first year as head coach and we had totally new team, having lost seven seniors,” American Heritage head coach Paora Winitana said. “But honestly, it’s been a blessing coaching these young men here. When we first met, we wanted them to identify a couple of things that will keep them on track. We talked about the word win, which for us means ‘what’s important now.’ Those are the values and the standards that they’ve come up with. We as coaches just want to make sure they’re going in the right direction.”
Marauders head coach James Taylor has coached high school basketball for 14 years and been at bigger programs like Lehi and Cedar City. He said coaching UMACW is a unique challenge.
“Charter schools are hard because you don’t really know who’s coming in and who’s going out,” Taylor said. “You’re left at the beginning of the year to kind of like recruit within the school. It’s constantly teaching and it’s constantly just trying to build and build and build. Then on top of it, we draw from a really unique population. It’s such a different experience than when I was when I was at Lehi or when I was at Cedar City. Our school is really small, so it’s kind of a labor of love. But honestly, I can’t ask for a better situation to do it.”
The two teams compete in Class 2A. It’s a division that has a wide range of styles and levels of basketball.
“You go play in small towns like Beaver and Altamont and the name on the front of their jersey is a big deal,” Taylor said. “They fight hard to protect that. They play so many different styles. I have to coach so much harder in Class 2A because there are so many teams that play so many different ways.”
These two programs, however, want everyone to know how important the game of basketball is to them because of the lessons it teaches.
“It’s bigger than basketball for us,” Winitana said. “If we can help these young men understand and identify the values and the principles that are going to help them after the game, then we can we can hold our heads high. If we just focus on the 32 minutes on the court, something’s wrong with it, I believe. I don’t care if we win games, but we don’t drop our values. Patriot basketball is all about keeping our standards high, regardless of the outcome.”
Taylor said: “We are passionate. Come watch us and you’ll see we’re crazy people, but we’re passionate about the game of basketball. We’re passionate about our players and are passionate about our program and our school. We play for each other. I coach hard because they want to be coached hard. We’re passionate about building quality in them through the game of basketball. At the end of the day, I don’t care if I’m ever remembered for wins and losses. But if I have people that come out and say, ‘hey, you really affected my son, you really helped my son make good decisions,’ that’s what it’s all about.”