The story has been the same for Moon Valley basketball for several seasons. The Rockets have continually been one of the most talented and successful teams in their conference and have been among the contenders for an AIA state title.
But, for the upcoming four-year varsity seniors, the end of the movie has been the same each time. In the last three seasons, Moon Valley has recorded winning seasons, entered the playoffs and lost to Shadow Mountain, who would go on to win the state championship each time.
Several of the Matadors’ top contributors graduated last summer, but Shadow will likely still be one of the top teams in 4A. As four-time champs, somebody will have to overcome the challenge of taking the trophy from their grasp.
In a way, the Rockets seem to be looking forward to it.
“We’ve just got to get them this year. We know if we keep advancing, we might end up playing against them in the playoffs, so we have to be ready,” senior guard Trent Hudgens said.
However, there are many steps to take before even thinking of the playoffs. Moon Valley wrapped up its summer league play in June and will have several months before preseason training and eventually the regular season in the winter sports season.
Coach Matt Elliott has faith that the team, led by seniors who have played together for a while, will take the steps necessary to make their final campaign a great one.
In summer play, the Rockets faced and defeated several teams in 5A or 6A, showing they can compete with squads at the highest levels. The coach has noticed the players building chemistry and relationships on the court, which could result in success down the road.
“We have a saying that good teams hold each other accountable, and the guys are doing that really well,” Elliott said. “They are able to take criticism, positive and negative, from teammates, and it makes them stronger.”
Two seasons ago, in 2017-18, the Rockets went 25-5 and reached the playoff semifinals. Several of the current seniors were sophomores on the varsity roster.
Hudgens has seen the now-veterans go from mere contributors to leaders on the court, showcasing the tenacity he wants to see from all his teammates from now until the end of their high school careers.
“When we used to get on the court a couple years ago, some of the people used to get pushed around on the court. Everyone’s tough now. We’re dogs,” he said. “We all get along now, and we know how to play together, too.”