Wasatch Academy basketball team continues in state of grace with amazing 20-0 record
By Matt Harris
HENDERSON, Nev.—Since the 1970’s, Wasatch Academy has not been a religiously-affiliated institution, but the way the Tigers stayed undefeated last week suggested a hint of the divine.
Wasatch Academy boys’ hoops moved to 20-0 in their historic season with a close win over Santa Monica, Calif., 75-69, and a tremendous comeback against Clark, the No. 2 team in Nevada, 71-69. The wins were the two closest contests of the Tigers’ season so far.
Wasatch Academy maintained a slim advantage over a tough Calif. squad in Santa Monica for most of the game, as part of the Rolling Hills Prep State Preview Classic in southern California. The Tigers jumped on the back of senior Tre Williams’ stellar 28-point outing for the win. Williams shot 5-12 from beyond the arc to lead the Tigers, while junior Mady Sissoko had a double-double in the post with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Against Clark, the Tigers fell in a deep hole early as the Chargers’ defense suffocated Wasatch. Clark got penetration early and charged out to a 17-4 lead, but Williams engineered a wakeup call at the point and the Tigers came back to make it 20-14 after the first quarter.
Clark pushed their lead to double digits in the second quarter, but a tremendous sequence by Wasatch closed the gap within 10, as senior Tristan Enaruna sank a 3-pointer, then Sissoko swatted a layup try off the backboard. Coming back, Riverton native Richie Saunders netted a layup with a foul, closing the gap to 33-26. Sissoko ended with three blocks in the game, but struggled on offense, only netting 3 points.
By the start of the fourth quarter, Wasatch Academy faced their largest deficit of the season, down 14 against the Chargers. Tiger Head Coach David Evans decided to use a combination of Sissoki, Enaruna, and junior Leonardo Colimerio to crash the boards and make every possession count.
Richie Saunders nailed a 3-pointer to get things going for the Tigers, and brought the score to 62-50. Saunders struck again midway through the quarter, stealing the ball on the perimeter a sinking a midrange jumper to bring the Tigers within 8 points. Enaruna sank a 3-pointer to make it 64-59 and prompt a Charger timeout.
Colimerio sank a difficult layup to make it a one-possession game, 66-63, before Clark sank a 3-pointer to open the game back up and prompted a timeout from Evans. Then came the Tigers’ magical moment.
Enaruna drained a jumper to make it a 4-point game, then Mike Saunders fell forward driving on a layup that banked in to make it 69-67. Colimerio subsequently crashed the boards on the Tigers’ next possession for a put back to tie the game at 69.
With the game tied and under a minute remaining, it was Mike Saunders’ time to shine. Staring down his defender at half court for almost the entire final minute, Saunders penetrated with a half-spin and rose up, contorting his whole body towards the hoop and let loose a midrange shot that sank in with 2.4 seconds left on the clock.
Clark’s final heave fell short and the Tigers pulled off the magnificent comeback.
Mike Saunders finished with 18 points to lead the Tigers, while Williams and Enaruna finished with 17 and 12 points, respectively. Colimerio made two of his four field goals in the critical final minutes and finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds.
Wasatch Academy faces the toughest test of their season as they will stay in the Silver State to play in the Montverde Academy Invitational, first going up against The Villages Charter School on Thursday and finishing on Saturday with a faceoff against Montverde Academy, one of the most storied high school basketball programs in the nation and MaxPreps’ preseason No. 1 squad.