Last year, the Timpview boys basketball game fell one victory short of a state title, losing in the Class 5A championship game to Springville.
This year, the Thunderbirds return nearly their entire lineup intact and are the No. 1 team in the state rankings.
Expectations are high.
On Friday, Timpview mowed down arch rival Provo 60-38 to open the season, overcoming a sluggish start to lock the Bulldogs down defensively.
“We were a little bit out of sync,” T-Bird coach Kevin Santiago said. “Donny (Provo coach Don Johnson) does a great job with his guys of taking the air out of the ball and spreading us out. It creates difficulty for us. What happened for us is we get frustrated and we get anxious and selfish getting to the hole. We talked about making the extra pass. We had a few assists and we started to pull away again.”
Sophomore James Rust scored eight points in the first quarter as Timpview got out to a 17-11 lead. Jaxon Santiago nailed a 3-pointer for a 20-13 advantage early in the second but Provo went on a run and a 3-point play by Joshua Urrutia tied the score at 20 with 6:02 to play. The two teams traded baskets but the T-Birds finished that half with an 11-0 burst and a 36-25 lead at the break.
“We were a little slow to start off the first quarter and a half,” Timpview senior Jake Wahlin said. “We got going towards the end of the second quarter. We felt a step slow so early in the season but we’ll get our feet under us.”
The Timpview defense asserted itself in the second half, holding Provo to just 13 points. After tying the game at 20 in the second quarter the Bulldogs managed just five more field goals the rest of the game.
“We’ve had six practices,” Kevin Santiago said. “Then to play your crosstown rival, the kids’ emotions were up and down. They seemed so excited because for so long we didn’t know if we’d even get to play. Their enthusiasm and their emotions were flying high before the game, so it was tough for them to go. We’re all just so grateful we get to play.”
Senior Jacob Gates was active on the boards and finished with a game-high 15 points for Timpview (1-0). Wahlin, who committed to BYU before the season, added 12 and Jaxon Santiago scored nine points on a trio of 3-pointers.
Juan Pablo Camargo had nine points for Provo (0-1).
“We have super high expectations,” Kevin Santiago said. “We’ve talked to our guys about the fact that the team who wins it all will be the hungriest team. We talk to them about being hungry and tough and all the things coaches talk about. They hear all day long about being No. 1, having a target on their back, all that stuff. Our goal is to be the best defensive team in the state.”
Wahlin added: “Winning a state championship is definitely our goal, but I think it will be harder this year because there will be a bigger target on our back. We’re going to be way better than we were last year and it’s going to be a great season. We have four terms that we talk about for this season: Tough, humble, hungry and unity. If we can hold a team to 38 points every game, we can be state champions.”