It is not very often that a team that starts their regular season 2-7 in their first nine games, finds their way into the state basketball tournament by the end of February.
That is in fact what the Boulder Creek Jaguars have accomplished this season. As they fell just short of a section crown and find themselves as a 15 seed and hosting an opening round game to start the playoffs.
“Ever since we started losing, the leadership has really stepped up,” explained junior shooting guard Nick Johnson. “The four core juniors have really stepped up. Me, Matt Downey, Justin Braun, Myles Judon, we all kind of stepped up and started leading the team…We’ve been running on all cylinders, doing good, just going on big runs and catching teams off guard.”
Those four including another junior Jach Landrum lead the Jags in most statistical categories. This great junior class have turned this team around with big wins which have allowed the confidence of the entire group to grow with each passing game.
Johnson said it seemed to have really started with a big win in the McClintock Invitational knocking off Brophy by six, avenging a 30 point loss to them just weeks prior. The Jags also avenged another blowout loss at the hands of the Pinnacle Pioneers from earlier in the season by beating them in the opening round of the sectional tournament. Going into the state tournament, they have won 10 of 12 since the that start of the new year.
“People don’t really know our name because we are up north,” explained Johnson. “Anytime we can get big wins and surprise somebody, it motivates us to go out and do bigger things so hopefully we can make a run here in the state playoffs.”
Leadership is one thing important to the turn around of a team. But execution on the floor is another. Boulder Creek has found where their strength is as a team and have run with it. They have four to five players on the court at a given time who can all shoot from the outside. Living and dying by the three can be a scary thing but for the Jags, it has prompted them to huge runs which has brought them back into a game, or created separation.
Nick Johnson is the leading scoring of this team that can shoot from the parking lot if it was allowed. His smooth stroke and quick release makes him very difficult to defend his long 6-4 frame. From his stand point, if it’s open, he is going to shoot it and it doesn’t matter from where.
“I feel like anywhere I step in the gym is a comfortable shot for me,” he mentioned. “So if you give me space, I’ll pull it and hopefully knock it down.”
As mentioned, it’s not just the strength of Johnson’s game, but that of his team.
“We are young and not tall on this inside at all,” Johnson stated. “Pretty much everyone of our strengths is shooting and when we get hot, we can get going fast.”
Boulder Creek hosts Dobson for the opening round of the state tournament on Thursday. The winner will take on Mesa who the Jags just fell to in the Sectional semi-finals last week. Boulder Creek has proven multiple times this year that their second shot at a team they lost to the first time around, finishes with a much more satisfying result.