There’s no question Mason Falslev is an extremely talented basketball player and one of the best high school athletes to come out of Cache Valley in recent memory — if not ever.
Falslev was named the Region 12 MVP in football and basketball as a junior at Sky View. The 17-year-old dropped more than a few jaws this past season on the hardwood with his ability to throw down thunderous dunks over hapless defenders and take over games in a way few players can.
Perhaps more importantly, Falslev was a model teammate and showcased the type of leadership that resonated within his Bobcat family. Indeed, Falslev was always quick to celebrate the accomplishments of his teammates — the true mark of a leader.
“Mason was able to work with the seniors last summer and spring, and had instant chemistry with that group when things started last season,” SV head coach Kirk Hillyard said. “He is a very likable young man and everyone wants to be around him. He has the respect of his teammates and he has high character.”
Falslev sparkled in every major statistical category during the 2018-19 season en route to leading the Bobcats to their third state championship in program history. For his efforts, the son of Hollie and Kyle Falslev was selected as The Herald Journal All-Valley Player of the Year.
“Mason has been a very good player and teammate in his previous two years,” Hillyard said. “This year his leadership on and off the floor went a long ways in driving this team. He was asked to step up and defend the other teams’ best players and did a great job with that, as well as all the other things he bring in rebounding, steals, assists and scoring.”
Just how well-rounded of a player was Falslev this past winter? For starters, he was one of only two players in Utah’s 4A classification — Ridgeline’s Landon Brenchley was the other — to rank in the top five in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Falslev paced all 4A competitors in scoring (24.1 points per game) and assists (5.2 per game) and ranked fifth in rebounds (7.7 pg) and steals (2.2 pg).
A lot of athletes who average that many points are high volume shooters, but Falslev was a very efficient scorer. Despite being the focal point of opposing defenses, No. 12 managed to knock down 58 percent of his field goal attempts, including 45 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Falslev buried a team-best 51 3-pointers.
“Sophomore year I kind of attacked the rim, but not to dunk it,” Falslev said. “I think this year I finished a lot harder than I did last year, and my 3-point game came more into play too because most teams would box-and-one me the whole game. I had to get 3s usually to get an open shot.”
Indeed, Falslev made it tremendously challenging for the opposition to game plan for. When the 6-foot-4 guard wasn’t scoring in bunches — Falslev poured in 30 or more points against Payson, Mountain Crest, Ridgeline, Bear River, Capital (Idaho) and Highland (Idaho), plus 29 against Green Canyon and Preston — he was dishing out timely assists and using his quickness and athleticism to disrupt the passing lanes for easy transition opportunities.
“Mason is tough for opposing coaches and teams to prepare for because of his ability to do so many different things as a player,” Hillyard asserted. “He had both his inside and outside game going at times this year, and his confidence grew a lot. Mason has played so much basketball he has a great understanding of the game and good feel for the game. He knows and understands what the team needs and is willing to sacrifice personal stats over what the team needs.”
Notwithstanding Falslev’s dominance, it was still a up-and-down season for Sky View. Not only did the Bobcats compete in what proved to be the deepest and best 4A region, they were battle-tested thanks to a brutal preseason schedule. The Bobcats went down to the wire against three of Idaho’s top teams in Rocky Mountain, Madison and Preston — they beat eventual 5A runner-up Madison — and squared off against Utah powerhouse Olympus, plus 6A program Weber.
The Bobcats blew out a lot of teams en route to their state title, but struggled in the nailbiting games. Six of Sky View’s nine loses were decided by three points or fewer, plus the Bobcats lost a fourth-quarter lead against Preston.
Another closely contested setback was looming in the opening round of the 4A state tournament against Juan Diego, but Sky View turned the corner. The Bobcats outscored the Soaring Eagle 20-8 in the fourth quarter and handed the Region 11 champs just its second loss of the season, 50-41.
“I mean, there was state celebration and then there was that celebration,” Falslev said of beating Juan Diego. “Once we won that game, the locker room was insane and we were going crazy. It was awesome. That was a huge turning point.”
The following week the Bobcats outscored Dixie 15-7 in the fourth quarter in their 58-48 triumph over the Flyers in the quarterfinals. Indeed, Sky View had learned to close out games, and that was bad news for the rest of the state.
In addition to the Juan Diego game, Falslev listed Sky View’s frustrating 78-63 setback to Logan in the region finale as another turning point. It proved to be the Bobcats’ last loss of the season.
“That last game that we lost, I think it was against Logan, was kind of our turning point where in practice we really decided we wanted to go far at state and we wanted to really try and win, and that’s when we really came together as a team,” said Falslev, who was tabbed the 4A MVP by the Deseret News.
Falslev’s best performance in the state tourney came in the semifinals against Payson. The University of Utah commit sank six shots from downtown and went off to the tune of 35 points, six boards, four assists and two steals as the Bobcats rolled.
That kind of epic effort typified why Falslev is the leading scorer in school history with another season to go. The three-year starter has already amassed 1,421 career points.
“It’s an honor,” Falslev said. “I’m so thankful for my coaches for believing in me, and my parents for supporting me in all that I do. It’s just amazing.”
It was also an amazing academic year on the gridiron for the junior as he quarterbacked the Bobcats to an undefeated regular season. Falslev, a first-team all-state wide receiver as a sophomore, has a handful of Division I scholarship offers in football and basketball.
Is there a chance he might play both sports in college?
“I’ve thought about it, but I’m going to play this (upcoming) year of football and see how it goes,” Falslev said. “But as of now I’m planning on playing basketball.”
Regardless of what decision Falslev makes, he’s left his mark at Sky View in both sports — a legacy that should continue to grow throughout the 2019-2020 academic year — and he’s been a team player along the way.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Luke Smellie, Jr., PrestonThis junior was a big reason why a Preston team with five new starters went 24-3 and made it to the 4A state championship game for the fourth straight season.
Smellie averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 assists per game en route to earning second-team all-district honors in a 10-team conference. The high-flying junior proved he could finish at the rim with authority and was the facilitator in the highest-scoring offense at Idaho’s 4A level.
Coach’s comment: “Luke had a tremendous season for his first year running the point for the Indians. Luke was very unselfish and is great at pushing the ball up the floor, attacking the basket and getting others involved. He had 11 assists in state semifinals vs. Century and 26 points in the district championship game vs. Twin Falls.”
Ty Hyde, Jr., PrestonHyde burst onto the scene in his first season as a starter and was one of the top post players in the Gem State.
The 6-foot-6 junior was named the Idaho State Journal All-Area Player of the Year after averaging 16.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists an outing. Hyde, a first-team all-state selection and co-district MVP, scored 10 or more points in all but two games.
Coach’s comment: “Ty was huge for us this season. He was our most consistent and experienced player. His presence on both ends of floor was big for the Indians this year. Ty will battle and give it everything he’s got every night. He was a first-team all-state player and Idaho State Journal Area Player of the Year this season.”
Carter Berish, Sr., Green Canyon
Like Hyde, Berish scored in double figures in all but two games for his region title winning team during the 2018-19 campaign.
The sharp-shooting senior guard garnered first-team all-state accolades after averaging 19.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 steals a game. Berish drained a whopping 81 3-pointers and led all 4A players with 3.4 treys per contest.
Coach’s comment: “Carter is the most unselfish, team-first star I’ve ever coached. Beyond his obvious skill level and ability to score the ball at such a high level, Carter is a quintessential coach on the floor. His understanding of the game, his ability to make correct decisions and desire to get better is off the charts. Carter Berish has been a huge part of building the identity of Green Canyon basketball.”
Dewey Panter, Sr., Green Canyon
Panter and Berish gave the Wolves arguably the most potent 1-2 scoring punch in the valley and one of the best combos in the 4A classification.
Additionally, the senior guard was as superb all-around performer for the Region 12 champions. Panter, a second-team all-state honoree, contributed 17.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 steals an outing and knocked down 45 treys.
Coach’s comment: “Dewey was massive to our success this year. Dewey certainly showed flashes of greatness his junior year. I challenged him before his senior season to become more consistent. Boy, did he respond. He may have been our most consistent guy this year. Many nights he was the best player for the team that won the region championship.”
Landon Brenchley, Sr., Ridgeline
This 6-4 senior guard did all he could to keep Ridgeline’s state playoff hopes alive.
Brenchley, a second-team all-state selection, had a monster final season for the Riverhawks as he led his squad in points (24.1 pg), rebounds (8.2 pg), assists (4.9 pg) and steals (2.3 pg). The future Utah State player was an extremely crafty scorer — he averaged an eye-popping 30 ppg during region play and shot 54 percent from the field — and is Ridgeline’s all-time leading scorer with 1,101 points.
Coach’s comment: “Landon has an uncanny ability to get to the rim and score. Even as teams try and take that away, he would still find a way. That is something that speaks to his competitiveness in that he just finds a way. It wasn’t just scoring, he lead us in almost every offensive category including rebounds.”
Anthony McDade, Sr., Logan
The Grizzlies were a completely different team when this ultra-quick guard returned from his injury.
McDade was a huge reason why Logan swept Sky View during the regular season. The third-team all-state selection recorded 13.9 points, 5.0 assists and 0.9 steals an outing in 16 games for the Grizzlies. No. 1 shot 78 percent from the free throw line and sank 31 3-balls.
Coach’s comment: “Anthony’s had major impact of the tradition of Logan High Basketball. He was the rock that made our team go. Having him on the floor was like having a coach on the court. Our team gained a ton of confidence when he was able to recover from his injury.”
Stockton Brown, Sr., West Side
This senior guard was the most clutch player in his district this season and a massive thorn in the side of 2017 and 2018 2A state champion Bear Lake.
Brown led the Pirates to a 3-1 record against the Bears this past season. The second-team all-state honoree averaged 16.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.2 assists per contest, and was a 85.4 percent shooter from the charity stripe.
Coach’s comment: “He played at the varsity level for three years. We didn’t need his scoring ability on the two previous teams, but this year Stockton got his chance to lead and did a great job. Our opponents focused on him as to who to stop, but he was still able to score. He had three game winning shots throughout the year with two of them being against Bear Lake, which led us to a district championship and state tournament berth.”
Sam Phipps, Jr., Sky ViewThis explosive leaper played his best basketball of the season in the state tourney as he was dominant on both ends of the court.
Phipps, a 6-6 forward, secured second-team all-state accolades after chipping in 13.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game as a junior. No. 34 shot an impressive 59 percent from the field.
Coach’s comment: “Sam is a player that progressively got better as the season went on. He worked hard to improve as a player and a teammate. Sam was a vital part of our state championship run. He played very well in the tournament, earning 4A tournament MVP, which is quite and honor considering the players matched up against. ... Sam was very fun to be around and he was a great teammate.”
Josh Jensen, Sr., Logan
The senior was arguably the most consistent post player in Region 12 during the 2018-19 campaign.
Jensen paced the Grizzlies in points (14.1 pg), rebounds (6.9 pg) and blocks (2.0 pg) en route to securing honorable mention all-state honors. The athletic 6-6 senior led all local players in blocked shots (46) and field goal percentage (65 percent) — a minimum of 100 attempts.
Coach’s comment: “As a three-year starter, Josh has always been a tough player and a great teammate. Josh consistently shot a high percentage, rebounded and protected the rim. He was a luxury to have in the paint on both ends of floor.”
Cooper Hobson, Jr., Preston
This 6-4 junior was a nightmare of a matchup for opposing guards this past winter.
Hobson, who propelled Preston from a come-from-behind victory over Middleton in the quarterfinals of the 4A playoffs, averaged 14.9 points and 4.5 rebounds an outing. The West Side transfer ranked second among all local players with 67 3-balls.
Coach’s comment: “Cooper had a great first year for the Preston Indians. He gave Preston an outside shooter to go with Luke’s penetration and Ty’s inside game. Cooper hit 67 3- pointers and shot 85 percent from the free throw line. He had a career high of 30 points in a win vs. Sky View this season.”
Kordell Welch, Sr., Mountain Crest
Welch gave the Mustang faithful plenty to cheer about in one of the state’s biggest upsets this past season.
The senior filled up the stat sheets with 32 points, five assists, four steals and four rebounds in Mountain Crest’s 77-75 overtime triumph over eventual 4A runner-up Bear River. Welch, a standout in the classroom, tallied 13.2 ppg during his final season with the Mustangs.
Coach’s comment: “Kordell was the only player returning with really any varsity experience. He was crucial in keeping a positive attitude when not a lot of positive things were happening. He was (an) academic all-state (selection) in three different sports this year. What a great example of hard work.”
Kasen Holbrook, Sr., Green Canyon
Like his two teammates on the all-valley team, Holbrook was an all-around solid performer for the Wolves.
The senior guard chipped in 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals a contest, and played some of his best basketball at the end of the season. Holbrook scored in double figures in Green Canyon’s final six games.
Coach’s comment: “Maybe the most underrated, underappreciated guy in our region. Kasen was a huge reason for Green Canyon winning the region title. Kasen was always given the challenge of guarding the opponent’s best player. He loved this assignment and thrived in this role. Also, his ability to knock down open shots was really key to our offensive success.”
Ryan Beckstead, Jr., West Side
This hard-nosed point guard was a big reason why the Pirates were one of the top defensive teams at the 2A level.
Beckstead wasn’t a prolific scorer — he averaged 8.8 ppg — but shined in the other major statistical categories. He contributed 4.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and a valley-best 3.0 steals an outing this past winter.
Coach’s comment: “Ryan led us in steals and assists, and tied for first in rebounding. Ryan was our point guard who got the ball where it was supposed to go. He could also rebound and play defense very well. Best of all, he’s a junior is expected to have a great senior year.”