Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 | 9:56 a.m.
The parallels between Desert Pines’ football and basketball teams over the last few years are hard to ignore.
Both have come excruciatingly close to winning state titles but fell just short. Both were overflowing with talent, including a lot of players that played on both teams. And both had great 2017 classes that had played on the varsity squad since they were freshman or sophomores.
Two weeks ago the football team finally broke through, pummeling Spring Creek 39-6 to win its first ever state championship.
Now it’s the basketball team’s turn.
The Jaguars have nine returning letterman, including four starters from last year’s state runner-up team.
“These guys are special athletes and they’ve grown with us,” said sixth year head coach Mike Uzan. “Most of our team plays football and basketball, so it’s been really fun for these guys. They’ve done a lot of special things in high school.”
Desert Pines will likely start five seniors, including Mike Uzan’s son Capri – who averaged 16 points and five assists per game last year.
“It’s fun because I’ve been telling these guys in practice that they’re coaching themselves at this point,” Mike Uzan said. “We’ve all seen each other fall at the worst times and we’ve had some great times together. “
Forward Trevon Abdullah will lead the frontcourt after averaging 11 points and six rebounds per game last season.
The Jaguars also added Jerell Springer, who transferred from Shadow Ridge after leading the Mustangs with more than 20 points per game in 2015-16.
“I think this will just be a fun year for us,” said senior guard Jordan Simon. “We’re working on winning, having a good chemistry with each other and winning a state championship.”
After three consecutive 3A state titles, Clark moved to the 4A classification in the offseason, leaving Desert Pines as the runaway favorites to take the 3A title.
The Jaguars will test themselves in the non-conference schedule with games against 4A contenders Coronado and Centennial, as well as a matchup with nationally ranked Mater Dei (Calif.) in the Tarkanian Classic on Dec. 16.
Desert Pines will be seeking revenge on Jan. 21, 2017 when they rematch last year’s state championship against Clark at the South Point Arena.
But while the Jaguars will undoubtedly want to show well against the upper-division opponents, the true goal is to finally get the state championship that has thus far eluded them.
“We’ve been going through some tough times and just couldn’t get it done for football or basketball,” Simon said. “This senior year is like the final finale.”