HIGHLAND, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - No Utah high school athletics team has received more national recognition and acclaim than the Lone Peak High boys basketball team.
The Knights are currently ranked 2nd in the entire nation by MaxPreps.com, and have beaten several of the best teams in the country.
At the City of Palms Tournament in Fort Myers, Florida, the Knights ended Chester (PA) High's 61-game winning streak, winning by 23 points. Lone Peak also beat the top team in Tennessee (Southwind), Mississippi (Callaway) and one of the top teams in Chicago (Proviso East). Their only loss was to a basketball academy from Florida, Montverde, ranked #1 in the nation.
Led by T.J. Haws, Nick Emery and Eric Mika, the Knights are not particularly big or quick, but play tenacious defense and execute their offense to near perfection.
They admit that when other teams from around the nation see them walk on the court, they are taken aback by their appearance.
"Oh ya, we get looks like that all the time," said Haws, a junior who, like Emery and Mika, are committed to BYU. "I love it. I think it's awesome, getting looks like that, then being able to prove ourselves on the court."
"It's kind of funny," added Emery, the Knights leading scorer. "Every time we go out of state, we get a bunch of looks, but we really show them how we play."
"Our appearance isn't very formidable," said head coach Quincy Lewis. "We're a bunch of 6-1, 6-2 skinny guys."
But man, can they play. Emery is a devastating shooter, who can score from anywhere on the court. Haws is a lanky shooter who is a tough matchup for opposing guards, while Mika is a 6-10 high-flier who won the dunk contest at the City of Palms Tournament.
"I did not think I was going to win that," Mika said. "I was hesitant of even going, but it was a lot of fun."
"It's been a lot of fun this year," said Lewis. "You might as well roll the dice and go to these tournaments across the country. We're not afraid to see who we are."
The Knights have already played games in Florida and Chicago, and will play one of the best teams from North Carolina Saturday in Milwaukee. Later this month, Lone Peak will play traditional national power St. Anthony (NJ) in Springfield, Massachusetts.
"We can play with anyone," said Haws. "It doesn't matter to us who we play, we know we can play with anyone."
So after playing so many of the great teams from around the nation, how do the Knights, who have won back-to-back 5A championships, stay motivated against Utah's finest?
"Every team in Utah is good," Emery said. "Our region is one of the top regions in the state, and we're going to be ready for every game."
"The Utah teams are really good as well," added Mika. "They just play differently. I think we take things from each different game and apply it to our other games."
While most people are ready to crown Lone Peak as the best team in Utah high school history, the Knights aren't quite there yet.
"We've got a really good team, but you can't tell until the end of the year," said Emery.
"Honestly, you're disrespecting some awfully good teams through the years if you say something like that," said Lewis. "The most you can say is, we were really good in that year if we go ahead and win the championship."
The Knights are well on their way to a third consecutive state title.