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High school basketball teams look to build from early experience

By Jared Lloyd - | Nov 25, 2021
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Maple Mountain senior guard Ben Milward (12) drives to the basket during the game against Cedar Valley during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Cedar Valley senior guard Lincoln Roberts goes up for a shot during the game against Maple Mountain during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Cedar Valley senior center Jackson Rose gets fouled as he goes up for a shot during the game against Maple Mountain during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Maple Mountain senior guard Ben Milward (12) drives to the basket during the game against Cedar Valley during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Maple Mountain head coach Johnny Averett directs his team during the game against Cedar Valley during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Cedar Valley senior Lincoln Roberts drives to the basket during the game against Maple Mountain during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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A Maple Mountain player goes up for a shot during the game against Cedar Valley during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Cedar Valley sophomore guard Hunter Larson drives to the basket during the game against Maple Mountain during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Cedar Valley senior Jackson Rose and Maple Mountain senior Kian Langford go up for the jump ball during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Cedar Valley head coach Blake Pugmire talks to his team during the game against Maple Mountain during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Maple Mountain senior guard Ben Milward goes up for a layup during the game against Cedar Valley during the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)

The high school state championship games are just a blip on the horizon at this point as they are still more than three months away.

But the process took a big step forward this week as teams got their seasons underway.

It’s not the time to expect crisp performances with few mistakes but players and coaches hope to start learning what areas need the most emphasis.

“What the early games teach me is what we need to work on the next practice,” Maple Mountain head coach Johnny Averett said after the Golden Eagles defeated Cedar Valley at the 2021 UCCU Utah Valley Tipoff Classic at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday.

“There’s a lot to work. Today was a typical first day with a lot of turnovers, a lot of missed opportunities to execute. That’s why you play the game.”

Averett explained that no matter how much time the players work in the gym or at practice, it’s different when the lights go on for official games.

“Kids tend to forget some of the things that we’ve taught them,” Averett said. “You have to play so you can see what you really need to work on.”

He said the goal is then to see his team make a nice step forward over the next few weeks.

“Sometimes with some teams, it’s after the first week,” Averett said. “With some teams it takes three weeks. It just depends on your guys, how well they mesh together and start to click.”

It’s also about getting less-experienced players to get accustomed to new roles.

“We only have one kid that got any experience even on the floor last year, so we kind of expected what you saw the first quarter, just a train wreck,” Averett said. “But we settled in and started to do better. This team plays well together and it’s a good mix of kids. We’re solid I think at every position and we have some depth as well. I do expect a lot of success with this team.”

While those steps are fairly universal, other teams have unique aspects to their seasons that they have to adapt to. Sometimes that means having a new coach or going to a new system.

For Cedar Valley this year, the challenge is getting acclimated to a new classification.

“We have a chance to play a couple of good Utah Valley teams, which is big especially moving up to 5A,” Aviator head coach Blake Pugmire said. “It kind of gives us a barometer of where we stands in comparison to some of the top teams. I think it’s good to come out and play tough teams to start preparing yourself for region.”

He said he felt like his squad showed a lot of maturity in a win over Timpview and a loss to Maple Mountain.

“Both teams were big, physical teams,” Pugmire said. “Timpview tried to trap us and speed us up. In years past, we had a tendency to turn the ball over and not settle in to take shots we wanted. We let the defense dictate the flow of the game. What I’m seeing is that our guys are mature enough to handle pressure and find shots we want to take. We are also seeing some team chemistry that we have been working on.”

Cedar Valley is only in its third year but Pugmire said he has better team cohesion than he has had in the past.

“Other schools have had teams playing together since they were in the third grade and we haven’t had that luxury yet,” Pugmire said. “I got this group as sophomores and we’ve been building toward this is and this jump to 5A.

He added that playing at a venue like UVU helps a team get a taste of what the state tournament will be like down the road.

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