Skip to main content

Sugar House Journal

Hard work helps Highland boys basketball go undefeated in summer tournament

Jul 27, 2017 14h10 ● By Koster Kennard

Highland’s basketball team poses in front of South Tahoe sign at the site of their summer basketball tournament. (Sam Maxfield/ Highland Basketball)

Highland’s boys basketball team has been going to the summer tournament in Lake Tahoe for 20 years but this year was extra special. This year, they won all five of their games.

Head Coach Jim Boyce attributes the team’s success at the camp to their athleticism and experience.

“I think we’ve got a pretty athletic team coming back, probably the most athletic team I’ve ever coached and a lot of those guys had a lot of varsity experience last season, and so I’d like to think that we’re going to be pretty decent coming up for this next year,” Boyce said. 

Another key to the team’s success was hard work.

“They played really hard. It’s a really hard working group of kids because we certainly didn’t blow anybody out, but we came from behind a couple times and kids just never quit and played as hard as they could,” Boyce said. “Things happen when you do that.”

Though the team went undefeated, beating teams from California and Nevada, their experience wasn’t without adversity. 

The team went into the camp without star wing Elijah Shelton who is recovery from a June 2 knee surgery.

“We had to kind of learn how to work without him,” said senior captain Oscar Maxfield. “For the majority of the game he’ll have the ball in his hands and make plays for other people. He gets rebounds. He guards the other team’s best player. He scores. He does everything. He’s a great player.”

After playing three games in the last three days and spending time at the beach, Highland’s energy was all but spent going into their Friday evening contest with Saint Mary’s, a large high school in northern California.

Before the end of the first half, the team was down 25-11.

For much of the game, Boyce had the team in a full court press defense to slow down Saint Mary’s.

“Coaches called a timeout to calm us down and just put on our press which is kind of our signature thing,” Maxfield said. “We’re really athletic so our press is really hard to beat so we just got a bunch of steals in a row.”

The momentum turned in the Ram’s favor in the second half after junior point guard Liki Makaui got a steal and passed the ball to senior forward Trayton Keyes who was fouled hard going up for a layup.

“He went up to dunk it and he got clobbered,” Maxfield said. “It was a flagrant foul and the kid got kicked out of the gym and everyone went nuts.”

Maxfield said that this play angered his team and helped motivate them to win.

“We just fed off of that. That was the turnaround. We knew, at that point, that we’re not losing,” he said. 

The team stormed back narrowly edging their opponent.

“That’s the thing with this group,” Boyce said. “It doesn’t matter if you get down or whatnot. They always seem to have a knack for coming back and being successful.” 

The camp included 25 to 30 teams but there was no bracketed tournament. Each team played five games.

“They didn’t name a champion,” Boyce said. “We did well but I don’t know if we could say we won the tournament. I’m not sure if any of the other teams went undefeated or not but I like how it worked out. It was a really successful thing for us.”

Maxfield said the team had success because they are effective in transition and have so many players the coach can trust when fatigue, injury or foul trouble show up.

Coach Boyce brought down 17 boys from his junior varsity (JV) and varsity programs. His JV team only lost one game.

In addition to playing basketball, the team played games at the beach like volleyball and spikeball and went bowling.

“It’s a great team bonding thing,” Boyce said. “It’s fun to see players kind of out of that basketball, school type situation where you can kind of get to know them a little better.”

During the camp many boys made new friends.

“That carries over into the season cause there’s going to be times where we’re not going to win every game or it’s not going to be all successes for us next year, and I think these are the things that help us kind of bond together so we can get through some of the challenges that we’re going to face next year,” said Boyce.