Canyon boys rout Nazareth in Tatum Tough final

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Canyon guard Gage Lunsford goes for a layup against Nazareth during the Tatum Tough Tournament championship game in Canyon on Thursday Roy Wheeler Press Pass Sports
It was appropriate that the Canyon Eagles were far and away the most at home of anybody at Joe Lombard Gymnasium at their own Tatum Tough Tournament.

Thursday afternoon the Eagles hosted Nazareth in the tournament final and showed that it was their world and everybody else was just passing through. They dominated from the start, never trailing and cruising to a 48-21 victory as they continued to be as good as advertised.

Canyon (15-2), ranked No. 8 in the state in Class 4A, was clearly the class of its own tournament, winning three games over three days by an average of 22 points.

“This is a process like I always say,” Canyon coach Travis Schulte said. “It’s a process of playing different people and seeing different things and how we handle this and how we handle that. Every team gives you something different. You want to come in here and get three wins, but more than anything you want to make sure you’re adjusting to what teams are doing and you’re running your stuff he way you need to.”

The Eagles took a 13-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and Nazareth (10-6) didn’t score a single field goal in the opening period. It looked as if it might be a competitive game as the Swifts steadied themselves in the second quarter and trailed only 22-13 at halftime.

But Canyon scored the first nine points of the second half and Nazareth only had a free throw in the third quarter to ultimately determine the fate of the game. Guard Gage Lunsford came out big for the Eagles, scoring seven points in the third quarter.

Lunsford had a game-high 16 points to carry the Eagles offensively. That exceeded the combined total of teammates Kemper Jones, Kelson Jones and Chris Bryant, Canyon’s trio of players 6-foot-6 and taller, who draw most of the defensive attention of opponents.

“Gage has a very motor, he loves the game and he’s a great competitor,” Schulte said. “That’s what we love about him. When he gets going, it’s tough. It’s more than just the three (big guys). When you get all five starters who are capable of scoring for you, it makes it fun.”

Nazareth had trouble getting anything going offensively, and the Swifts didn’t score a field goal in the first or third quarters. Tanner Birkenfeld led them with 10 points.

The Swifts are ranked No. 8 in Class 1A and took a big lesson from the game.

“If we had gotten a couple of shots to fall down early those things could have turned a couple of different ways,” said Nazareth coach Taylor Schulte, a distant cousin of Travis. “At the same time the length that (the Eagles) had just gave us a lot of trouble. When they switched to zone we just struggled to put it in the basket. It was a great tournament for us going 2-1.”

The Canyon Eagles won the Tatum Tough Tournament championship for a second straight year Roy Wheeler Press Pass Sports
The tournament is named after Travis Schulte’s late daughter Tatum, who died in 2017 three weeks short of her 10th birthday after a lengthy battle with cancer. She became a rallying point for the community and last year the tournament was established in her honor.

Travis Schulte is proud to have his team live up to Tatum’s legacy.

“It’s an absolute blessing to be in a position to do that,” Schulte said. “To take that Tatum Tough trophy into our locker room, we’re very, very blessed to have that as a reminder of her. Her silhouette on that trophy and those T-shirts is a pretty cool thing for us.”

Nazareth   3  13  14  21
Canyon   13  22  31  48
N – Tanner Birkenfeld 10, Brett Heitschmidt 4. C – Gage Lunsford 16, Evan Hughes 7. Records: Nazareth 10-6, Canyon 15-2.

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