Titans’ bid for state boys basketball title repeat not as easy as a year ago
Jan 22, 2019 02:08PM
● By Josh McFadden
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
With the loss of a few key players, Matt Barnes knew his team wouldn’t walk over the competition this season, but his Olympus Titans are still a force to be reckoned with.
The Olympus boys basketball team didn’t lose a single game last season, but the Titans’ streak ended early this season with an opening night loss to Pleasant Grove, 61-60, on a last-second basket. Olympus also fell to Bingham 61-57 on Dec. 7 at the Utah Elite 8.
But don’t think Olympus isn’t still a favorite to repeat as 5A champions.
The Titans won their 12 other contests during the first 14-game stretch, including the Region 6 opener, a 63-44 rout of West on Jan. 11. Olympus hasn’t won by the same video game-like scores as it did last season, but the team still has an impressive average margin of victory of 76-59. The team scored at least 60 points in 13 of its first 14 games and reached 80 points or more seven times during that span.
The Titans have relied heavily on the potent duo of seniors Jeremy Dowdell and University of Utah-bound Rylan Jones. Dowdell leads the state in scoring with a 30.3 average through his first 14 games. He has been particularly deadly from three-point range, hitting an amazing 4.8 shots from behind the arc every game. That figure also tops the entire state — more than 0.6 better than the second-place player.
Jones has been an all-around dynamo, much like he was last season as a junior. He is the 17th-leading scorer in the state with a 21.1 average, but he also averages eight rebounds, 7.6 assists and 3.1 steals per game.
Olympus doesn’t have a third player who blows people away with eye-popping stats like it did last season with the now-graduated Harrison Creer. However, Noah Bennee, a star from the football team, has put up a solid 5.7 points and 5.9 rebounds an outing. Jack Hollberg chips in just over five points per game.
Last season, the Titans didn’t have a region game closer than 11 points (and only one closer than 21 points), so it will be interesting to see how the team responds to situations where opponents will be aiming for revenge. In fact, the Titans haven’t lost a league game since Feb. 5, 2016, when Murray defeated them 66-57 at Olympus. The Titans have captured four straight region crowns.
The Titans face all of their region foes twice, ending with a Feb. 19 home matchup with archrival Skyline, a team they crushed by 68 and 56 points a year ago. If things go according to plan and Olympus once again qualifies for the state tournament, it will begin its quest to defend its state title when the playoffs begin Feb. 25 at Weber State University. Olympus has reached the state championship game the past three seasons, winning two of those games.