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Davis Journal

Wildcats’ playoff run increases optimism for the future

Mar 17, 2022 11:01AM ● By Josh McFadden

Woods Cross’ Zach Delange (2) drives to the basket around Olympus’ Lucas McKane (22). The Wildcats were unable to get around the tough defense of the Titans losing 40-31. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

It’s not out of the ordinary for a lower-seeded team to contend for a state title. But that doesn’t take away from what the Woods Cross boys basketball team did during the recent playoffs.

The Wildcats capped a surprising postseason run by reaching the state finals where they lost to top-seeded and one-loss Olympus 40-31 on March 5. The Wildcats entered the Class 5A state tournament as the No. 7 seed but put together four wins to reach the finals. Their final two wins – in the quarterfinals against Orem and the semifinals against Murray – were over higher-seeded teams. 

It may not have been a huge shock that the underdog Wildcats did so well. After all, in Class 6A, the state champion was 10th seeded American Fork. Still, Woods Cross wasn’t one of the top contenders going into the playoffs. Earlier in the season, the Wildcats were sitting with a 5-5 record after a blowout loss to Cyprus on Dec. 30. The team was also a mediocre 3-2 five games into the region schedule. 

The Wildcats got better as the season went along. 

Woods Cross finished second in Region 5 with a 7-3 record and went 18-9 overall. It was a significant improvement over last year’s 10-12 (2-8 in Region 5) campaign. 

By the time the Wildcats got to state, some tough regular season games had prepared them for the win-or-go-home postseason.

“The kids trusted in our game plan each playoff game and executed extremely well,” head coach Justin Margetts said. “Playing in close games throughout the season helped us gain the confidence in those situations. We preach discipline and taking care of the ball, and we were great with that for most of the playoff run.”

Despite falling short against a powerful Olympus team, Margetts was pleased with his players’ effort. 

“I am so proud of my guys for the determination they showed in that game,” he said. “The outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but outside of Davis, we played them better than anyone all season and really gave ourselves a shot. I was so proud of how we defended and battled.”

Any final game of the season is filled with emotion. The feelings are much higher when it’s a state championship game. Coming so close but missing out on the top prize was disappointing, but Margetts had some wise, encouraging words for his squad.

“There were tears and hung heads – lots of disappointment,” he said. “We truly believed in each other and believed we were the best team in the state in those playoffs. I told them they had so much to be proud of. I told the seniors that we had massive shoes to fill and that we would remember them and play for them. I told the underclassmen to remember how they felt as they saw Olympus running onto the floor and celebrating.”

The milestone of playing for a state championship was something the Woods Cross program hadn’t experienced since Ronald Reagan’s first term as U.S. president. After the Wildcats defeated Murray 59-47 on March 2 in the University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center, the players were elated. 

“They were so excited,” Margetts said. “They knew it was a big deal to our community and were the first team in four decades to make it back to the title game.”

Don’t be surprised to see the Wildcats back in the championship game next season. Woods Cross returns some key players and has lots of momentum heading into 2022–23.

“The future is bright,” Margetts said. “We are excited about the culture we are building. We return quite a bit of our team, and we have great young talent coming up.”λ