LEHI — One could be hard-pressed to find a more challenging non-region schedule than the one Quincy Lewis assigned to the defending 5A state champion Lehi boy’s basketball team.
The Pioneers opened with a 24-point loss to Westlake, then took road trips to Davis and Bountiful and came away with losses of 63-44 and 51-49, respectively.
On Saturday night, with a chance to step outside of in-state play and facing 5-1 Norland from Miami, Florida, Lehi faced another massive challenge.
This time, they rose to it.
Cooper Lewis poured in 20 points, including four 3-pointers, and Spencer Anderson added 13 points to lift the Pioneers to their second win of the season with a 60-51 win over Norland, handing the Vikings — a high-end team from the Miami area — just their second loss of the year at the Holiday Hoopfest tournament in Lehi.
Preston Varner added 10 points for Lehi, which dished out a season-high 16 assists and shot better than 60% from the field.
“We’ve run the gauntlet. I can’t imagine there’s a team that has had a tougher schedule than what we’ve been through,” Lehi coach Quincy Lewis said. “Westlake, Davis, Bountiful; we’ve had a beast. But that’s what you’ve got to do, because you’re going to find out what you’ve got to do to get better when you play good teams.”
The Pioneers (2-4) jumped out to a 17-5 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, taking a 38-19 advantage to open the third on Anderson’s second 3-pointer of the contest.
Defensively, Lehi kept Marcus Allen, a high-end sophomore who already has offers from Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast, to 24 points — including just three field goals in the first half.
“I think it’s really cool,” said Anderson, a 6-foot-1 junior whose 13 points were a season-best. “I think it’s just a great experience, with the connections our coach has. It’s a different type of basketball, but we competed and I love my team. We went after it.”
Added Cooper Lewis, the 5-foot-11 sophomore now averaging 14.8 points per game: “It’s always good to mix it up and see different teams from different states. We can take the same approach, but a team that we’ve never seen.”
It was the perfect storm for a Lehi program badly seeking a win, and one that will finish out the holiday tournament Monday before wrapping up non-region play Dec. 31 against Salem Hills and Jan. 4 against Jordan.
It was exactly the kind of game that Lewis hoped for when his program opted to host the national tournament, one that brought teams from Texas, California, Nevada and Florida to play local programs.
“This is such an exciting event to have here in the state for all teams,” said Lewis, the former BYU assistant coach. “There are good players out there; there isn’t one bad team here. These are all high-quality teams.”
While Davis was proving itself the favorite in 6A by getting 21 points from Rex Sunderland and 20 more from Colby Sims en route to a 58-55 win over 5A favorite Olympus in the championship game of the Northern Utah Shootout, other teams around the state were adding rare out-of-state contests to their resumes.
Local schools like Lehi, Farmington and Corner Canyon played out-of-state competition like Norland, Faith Family Academy (Texas), Durango (Nevada) and Kimball (Texas).
But the highlight of Holiday Hoopfest came when American Fork took to the tournament finale against Duncanville (Texas), the No. 1-rated team by MaxPreps just two days removed from a buzzer-beating 67-66 win over national power Montverde Academy at a Hoophall West event in Scottsdale, Arizona.
But the Panthers had plenty of trouble early with the Cavemen, who jumped out to a 22-12 lead early in the second quarter before Duncanville held the Cavemen to 7 points the rest of the way en route to a 29-26 halftime.
“Last night, we got down 16-2 (against Faith Family) and battled and battled, and played really good basketball before we ran out of gas. The situation tonight was the same,” American Fork coach Ryan Cuff said. “Building on that and being able to come back and play such a quality team is something that these kids will always remember.”
The Panthers (11-0) inched forward 52-50 after three quarters, then held American Fork to just four field goals in the fourth quarter, pulling away for good with a 22-2 run en route to a 79-66 win.
Ashton Wallace scored 11 points to lead the Cavemen, and Jaxon Durrant added 11 for a balanced Caveman squad.
“I’m very proud of them,” Cuff said. “I feel like there’s a lot of progress to be made in a couple of days, and sometimes you walk away losing but feel like you can definitely build on some of the good things and prepare us for what matters most.
“Next week doesn’t get any easier, playing Viewmont and then Davis and a couple of other tournaments. Our schedule is not easy, but for us it’s what matters when we hit January: making sure we’re playing the best we can to peak at the right time.”