For a variety of reasons, it was an odd season for area boys basketball teams.
Traditional preseason and summer workouts were hindered by COVID-19, as was scheduling. Crowds were limited for most of the season due to restrictions, and the spirit of local rivalry games seemed muted to the level of off-season workouts, with no cheerleaders, no bands, and no student sections allowed.
Through it all, teams pushed ahead, and by the end of the regular season a sense of normality seemed to surface. Traditional powers Madison and Rigby advanced to the state 5A tournament.
Newcomers emerged with Thunder Ridge and Teton each making noise in their respective classifications.
But if there was one storyline that seemed to come out of nowhere, it was Skyline and what the Grizzlies managed to do over the final two weeks of the season.
Grizzlies coach Clint Cornish described it as a team that was just grinding day after day. Several players came in after a state championship run during football season and it took some time for everyone to get on the same page.
A slow start ended in a near-miraculous finish.
The Grizzlies won five games during the regular season but got hot at the right time and won five games in the District 6 tournament, beating No. 3 Blackfoot, No. 2 Bonneville twice, and No. 1 Hillcrest twice, including in the championship game and if-necessary game to earn a berth to the 4A state tournament.
Even Cornish admits there may have been a touch of luck involved, but the Post Register All-Area Coach of the Year was the one constant during a turbulent season.
“He pulled the right strings, pushed the right buttons, and those kids played really good ball the last 10 games,” Bonneville coach John Tucker said. “They were amazing … Clint knew his team and I thought by the end of the year he had done the best job.”
Cornish wouldn’t take all of the credit for the team’s strong finish.
“Our guys just kept coming,” he said. “They kept playing and trying really hard in practice. Most of the time when you have high school kids losing close games like that they just get defeated. They go into games thinking they’re going to lose. Our kids never did that.”
“Anytime you can get to state that shows something,” Madison coach Travis Schwab said, noting the importance of the football players coming in after winning a state title.
“Down the stretch they knew what it took,” Schwab added. “They had football guys who had won a state championship; they knew how to win when some of the other teams didn’t.”