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South Salt Lake Journal

Cottonwood boys basketball riding balanced scoring while trying to stay competitive

Jan 23, 2020 02:39PM ● By Brian Shaw

Jeo Sellers is averaging over 10 points a game this season.

By Brian Shaw | [email protected]

With former head coach Lance Gummersall off to new pastures at Herriman High School, Cottonwood ushered in a new era in December 2019. 

In walked new head coach Marc Miller, who spent three years on the last staff under Gummersall, who had the Colts within a whisker of a berth in the state playoffs. 

Miller has some big shoes to fill going into the 2020 season. But first, Cottonwood had to get through a tough slate of preseason games in December 2019. 

The Colts tipped off the preseason with a showdown against Kearns at the UVU Tip-Off Classic. Cottonwood hung tough with the rebuilding Cougars for four quarters but fell 44-37. 

As the Colts continued their road trip to open the season, they traveled to Taylorsville. In another close battle, Cottonwood showed its mettle, hanging with the Warriors throughout but never overcoming a slow first quarter start in a 47-43 loss. 

Next up was a bus trip south, to the majestic red rock country of St. George. Cottonwood suffered its largest loss of the season thus far, a 59-44 decision to Pine View after keeping the game close for two quarters. 

However, a short bus ride the next night against Snow Canyon on Dec. 13 turned into a seesaw battle that dragged into overtime before the home team prevailed over Cottonwood, 61-55. 

At 0-4 overall and just before the holiday break, the Colts finally returned home on Dec. 17 to take on Bear River. 

The Colts showed a few nerves in the first half, falling behind 23-14 to the visiting Bears, who even extended their lead to 13 through three quarters. Cottonwood fell in this one by the score of 55-39. 

After the break, the Colts, who had already played four out of five games on the road, returned to the highways and byways for the Riverton Holiday Tournament. 

In a four-day marathon starting on Dec. 26, Cottonwood took on perennial power Orem, losing 65-32 in a game that saw the Colts fall behind 33-10 at the half. 

The next day saw the sun come up and saw Cottonwood fight, scratch and claw against Centennial (Las Vegas, Nevada) who prevailed throughout, though the Colts showed grit and didn't let up in a 60-46 loss. 

That determination proved to put Cottonwood over the top and into the win column Dec. 28 against Cedar Valley. 

The Colts galloped out to a 14-9 after one quarter, holding a two-point advantage of 23-21 going into halftime. They would increase their lead to five through three quarters, however, Cedar Valley wouldn't go away and used a big fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. 

After Cedar Valley scored the first points in the extra period, Cottonwood flexed its muscles, scoring the final six points in overtime to capture a 59-55 win — their first victory this season and the first under the new coach Miller. 

The Colts would then lose the final game of their preseason Dec. 30 against California school San Clemente, 63-40 to close out December at 1-8 overall with region play soon to follow in the new year. 

Going into region play, the Cottonwood Colts boys basketball team knows they have a shot at making some new memories. 

For starters, the Colts, along with all the other teams in Class 5A, will be seeded into the state tournament, meaning they no longer have to worry about having to play their way into the big dance. 

Cottonwood fans will remember that two years ago, the Colts were within one game of qualifying for state, but lost 59-43 to Brighton in a state play-in game. 

While some might argue that the new RPI (ratings performance index that seeds all teams for the playoffs) system just gives Cottonwood and all the other high schools a participation trophy just for playing, the fact is that the Colts are under the leadership of a new head coach and it will take time for the team to gel. 

The good news, however, is that Cottonwood is returning several players from last year's team that finished the 2019 season strong. 

And so far, the early returns on this team is that despite a 1-8 preseason record, the Colts have an unselfish bunch willing to battle for loose balls and score with uncanny balance. 

Chief among the scorers thus far is Noah Widerberg, who leads Cottonwood in scoring with 11.8 points per game as of Jan. 21. (He also leads the team in three-point shots made, with 19.) 

Jeo Sellers, who found himself as more of a bit player last season under former coach Gummersall, has emerged as a go-to guy for this Cottonwood team, averaging 10 points per outing. 

Aiden Oliphant is stepping up for the squad in a big way as well, chipping in about eight points while leading the team in rebounds with six per contest. 

And Andre Cooper, who like the aforementioned others filled in as role players in last year's edition, is tacking on about seven points per game for Cottonwood. 

Perhaps one other interesting statistic under this Cottonwood squad is that they seem to be a rebounding team by committee, as at least six Colts average two or more boards per game through nine games.