JDCHS basketball teams on court with renewed energyJan 05, 2023 11:37AM ● By Catherine Garrett
Juan Diego senior guard Alynn Crooms is averaging nearly 10 points a game for the Soaring Eagle squad through seven games this season. (Photo courtesy Charity Ryan)
Behind coaches in their 10th seasons at Juan Diego Catholic High School, the boys and girls basketball teams return with similar approaches this year. The boys squad is emphasizing “Effort, Attitude and Teamwork” within the culture they are trying to reestablish as they will make a jump to compete in the 5A classification, according to head coach Drew Trost. On the girls side, head coach Ashlee McKray said her group’s focus on their season ahead in 3A’s Region 15 is on “what we can control each time we step on the court: our effort, our energy and our enthusiasm.”
The boys have even more change this season as they move on without their two leading scorers from the state’s third-best team last season. Malick Diallo transferred to Wasatch Academy over the summer and Zuriel Marquez’s family moved to Provo where he’ll now play for Timpview.
The jump to 5A—for boys basketball only—will also be new for the Soaring Eagle squad this year. “We’ve always played big schools, but now playing them night in and night out might have us taking some lumps early,” Trost said. “We’re thrown into the fire quick and even if we don’t have the same success as we’re used to, we will be really competitive.”
Also coming to the courts around the state this year is the 35-second shot clock which Juan Diego already saw the benefits from in its first game against Westlake. “We were down by nine in the fourth quarter and they couldn’t stall so we were able to mount a comeback and get back into the game,” Trost said, noting that his team lost by one point on a buzzer-beater. “It’s a good change that will increase the pace of the game overall.”
Seniors Colby Bryant, Camilo Ramirez and Malik Harris, who have gone through the Skaggs Catholic school system together since kindergarten, have already taken on their leadership roles on and off the court, according to Trost. “They know exactly what we want here and they embrace and embody that themselves,” he said. “We want our guys to have an enjoyable experience and they are great leaders to help us do that.”
So far this season, sophomore Noah Bendinger, who averaged nine points a game in varsity action last year, scored 21 points in the loss against the Thunder. On Nov. 30, Juan Diego got its first win against Green Canyon 60-39 with 28 more points from Bendinger while junior Dereelle Desire added 14 and the three captains scored four points each. They also defeated Park City 72-34 Dec. 2 with Bendinger again leading the way offensively with 22 points with Desire adding 14 and Harris and Caden Fenger scoring 10 each. In a 64-61 win over Timpanogos Dec. 6,
Bendinger put in 22 points to go with Desire’s 18 and Harris’ 10.
“We have a talented group of young boys as well led by Noah and sophomore Bryton Valdes,” Trost said, of his program that has 32 players this season.
Also on the 2022-23 JDCHS squad are senior Alijah Bendinger; juniors JJ Aguirre and Maui Richmond; sophomores Dawson Bengtzen, Hans Carlson, Hunter Chamberlin, Devan James, Dylan Magleby, Luke Meyer, Darion Otto, Marcus Pino, Tony Rosas and Jake Wyatt; and freshmen Javier Aguirre, Bandon Backman, Ben Bayer, Deng Deng, Garang Deng, Braylen Fail, Aidan Janiga, Chris Jimerson, Nico Mayorga, Trey Nicolodemos, Noah Schuyler and Rahiti Tinirauarii.
Trost is being assisted by Joe Colosimo, James MacIntyre and JDCHS alums JD Ahlstrom and Matt Kitzman on the coaching staff this year with Sebastian Ramirez as team manager.
“This is the best coaching staff I’ve ever had here,” Trost said.
The team is also scheduled to face Murray and Viewmont before competing at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas in mid-December and then West Jordan, Ridgeline, Salem Hills, Maple Mountain, Ogden, Judge Memorial (twice), Hillcrest, Morgan, Delta, Bountiful, Layton Christian, Brighton and Skyline to close out the one season they will play without a region.
Senior guard Alynn Crooms and senior forward Melissa Osmundson are back to lead Juan Diego along with four other “strong seniors” in guards Jenna Butkovich and Annette Rodriguez and forwards Brianna Aquilla and Nyrvanah Crockett.
“They have been playing together since the third grade,” coach McKray said. “They are an exciting group to watch play!”
McKray also noted three newcomers—sophomore guards Oliveria Eschmann and Ariela Martinez and freshman guard Quincy Kegel—as ones to watch on the court this season.
The Soaring Eagle team spent time in the offseason “revamping the defense” as well as establishing team chemistry in hopes of improving on its third-place finish in Region 15 a year ago.
So far this season, JDCHS is 3-4 with victories over Delta Nov. 23, Spanish Fork Nov. 29 and Box Elder Dec. 3. Against the Rabbits, the Soaring Eagle team won 50-29 behind Crooms’ 21 points with eight others also scoring in the big win. Crooms had 15 points to again lead Juan Diego in a 44-42 win over the Dons. Crooms was again the leading scorer with 11 points in a 34-31 win over the Bees. Aquilla’s 13 points led to a 51-32 win over South Summit. Its losses came against Emery, Ogden, Desert Hills, Richfield and Timpanogos.
The Soaring Eagle squad is also scheduled to face Alta, North Sanpete and Logan in preseason play before home-and-away matchups with Judge Memorial, American Leadership Academy, Summit Academy and Providence Hall this season.
Also on the JDCHS team this year are junior Zoe Pappas; sophomores Oliveria Eschmann, Gigi Garcia, Tea Gostevcic, Avia Hernandez, Ariela Martinez, Clarissa Sanchez and Sanjula Sunil; and freshmen Elly Clark, Hannah Haney, Kaitlin Hulberson, Quincy Kegel, Ayen Kuath, Malie Mataele, Malena Modtland, Ellie Palmer, Madison Pickers, Niella Sebit, Leini Tui and Sienna Vonderohe.
McKray is being assisted on the coaching staff by Leia Stechshculte, Shannon Beck and Grace Dullanty.