Most high school basketball coaches are sleeping a little less this weekend as they prepare to lead their teams into this week's 5A state tournament at Salt Lake Community College.
That includes top-ranked and undefeated Bingham head coach Rand Rasmussen. He does not, however, see his players struggling with the pressure that comes from a season of high expectations.
"I'm nervous like the other 15 coaches out there," Rasmussen said. "I don't think it's an issue with this group. To be honest with you, they're goofy. I could never get ready for a season or a game like they do. I've never seen anything like it."
This year's team has a unique Jekyll-and-Hyde personality.
"Ten minutes before the game they'll be discussing does her dress match his tie," he said. "Or what happened in class. And then come game time, they're 100 percent focused on what they have to do."
Even so, even the most relaxed squads can feel the heat created by a 21-game winning streak.
"I would normally think it would be a detriment," he said of the undefeated season. "I'm not sure they know they're undefeated, to be honest. At least, I don't think it matters to them." The team is tough, talented and has great chemistry. They're led by point guard Madison Aulai-Roe, Jillian Powell, Mackenzie Bruggeman, Ashton Henderson and Sheradyn Parker.
Rasmussen points to the fact that the seniors have a tradition of spending the Saturday before the tournament together. This year, he said the four senior captains invited the other four seniors on the team to spend that time with them.
"They're just really, really close," he said. "It's one of my most favorite groups I've ever had the chance to be around."
He doesn't think his team's record — or personality — give them much of an edge in the always unpredictable tournament. And unlike last year, when the title seemed Syracuse's to lose, there is no heavy favorite.
"I think your tournament this year is wide-open, to be quite honest," said Rasmussen. The Miners will take on West Jordan in the first game of the tournament at 6 p.m. Monday. The tournament opens with second-ranked Riverton and co-Region 3 champion Brighton playing at 9:30 a.m.
The Bengals are led by guard Maddy Chin, a junior, and guard Lindsey Johnson, a sophomore, while the Silverwolves rely on senior forward Whitney Saunders, junior guard Shelby Richards and senior guard Jamie Smith.
The most intriguing first-round match-up is that of third-ranked Region 2 champion Viewmont and Fremont, a team that tied for second but lost the three-way coin toss to earn the fourth seed from the most competitive region in 5A. The two teams play at 12:50.
The Vikings are led by Junior guard Caitlyn Larsen, sophomore guard Kaite Toole and senior forward Taya Adams. Fremont relies on junior center Amanda Wayment and sophomore guard Shelby Molen.
Just making the tournament is an accomplishment for the Region 1 teams, which was evident as no team went undefeated. Region champ was Davis, a team that lost twice to Weber, a squad that didn't even qualify for the playoffs.
"Region 1 was a battle and that's what state will be," said Davis head coach Anne Jones. "It has totally prepared us for state." Jones said she was unsure just how good this year's fourth-ranked Darts team could be, but it has progressed in all the right ways.
"We just started to play better every game," she said. "We started believing in ourselves and just playing well at the right time." The Darts are led by senior Jessica Richardson and senior guard Natalie Mecham.
The fifth-ranked team comes from Region 4 — American Fork. The Cavemen split with Riverton during region play and won the coin toss to earn the second seed.
The Cavemen are led by senior guard Cassidy Fraughton, who will play for UVU next season, and senior forward Amy Bergeson.