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West Valley City Journal

Matheson Tigers win a boys basketball title

Feb 07, 2022 03:44PM ● By Greg James

The Tigers celebrate their junior high championship. (Photo courtesy of Sage Harmsen)

By Greg James |  [email protected] 

The Matheson Tigers won the district championship for boys junior high basketball.

“It was such a fun and intimidating championship game,” head coach Sage Harmsen said. “We went to Olympus Junior High to play in front of their fans. Walking into the gym they were all barking like dogs (Olympus’ mascot is the bulldogs). I will not lie it was tough and we knew they were for real.”

The Tigers defeated the Bulldogs 61-51. Late in the game, Matheson only led by five. A missed shot and timely rebound eventually put the game out of reach. 

“We increased the lead to 10 points by hitting our free throws,” Harmsen said.

The team had some important game-time performances. Carlo Mulfod finished the game with 31 points. Beckham Bayles hit critical free throws near the end of the game to secure the victory. Stone Tia had 11 points, Chase Macceo grabbed several rebounds and Quincy Bradford hit a late-game three-pointer that proved to be the winning shot.

“From the get-go, it was an intimidating game. We led most of the game. I had a spectator tell me it was as good as the triple-overtime game against Michael Jordan (1992 Jazz victory 126-123). It was so competitive and the sportsmanship was very good,” Harmsen said.

Granite School District sponsors its junior high sports programs as learning opportunities for its students. They offer basketball, soccer, volleyball, cross country, wrestling and track and field.

“I think our program has been a success,” Granite School District Athletic Director Chris Shipman said. “They seem to enjoy it.”

Each sporting season begins with an intramural school competition. Every student that wishes to play can join the after-school program. As the two-week trial period ends the coaches select all-star teams to compete against other schools from the district.

“We had about 100 students participate in basketball this year,” Harmsen said. “We selected 26 to be part of the team. They all participated in practice and training and then 15 were allowed to be on the team for games.”

The Tigers went undefeated in its seven games. They only allowed an average of 23 points per game, while scoring nearly 67 per contest. This was the first time they had defeated Olympus Junior High in a game.

“It was tough to coach these kids. I never knew when to call off the dogs, so to speak,” Harmsen said. “In the end, it is about the kids and letting them grow.”

One of the requirements for participation is a need to be in good standing with the school, with academics and with citizenship.

“The extras are so important for the kids. We use recess privilege when they are younger and activities when they are older. Being able to express themselves outside of the classroom is important,” Harmsen said.

Granite is the only school district to organize junior high sports programs. 

“I love the junior high program. It is an opportunity for students that are not part of a super league or AAU to be a member of a team,” Harmsen said. “Otherwise, they might not have that chance. It amazed me that we had players from all different walks of life. We played together and laughed together and that was one of our strengths.”