HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

Cyprus Basketball Overcomes Travel Chaos To Play In California Tournament

Dec 28, 2022, 11:17 AM
Tre Smith - Cyprus Basketball...
(Photo courtesy of Deseret News)
(Photo courtesy of Deseret News)

MAGNA, Utah – The Cyprus High School boys’ basketball team overcame the Southwest Airlines travel chaos in order to reach their tournament in California just in time for tip-off.

Cyprus Basketball arrived in La Verne, California just two hours before tip-off of their game against Rolling Hills Prep in the Damien Classic. It was a journey to get five coaches and 15 players from Salt Lake City to La Verne, California.

Cyprus head coach and former Utah Runnin’ Utes guard Tre Smith explained the entire journey to KSL Sports.

“I was shocked at how well they [his players] handled it,” Smith said. “As a team, they handled it really well. Obviously, no one wanted to hang out in the airport. They knew it was a business trip and came out here to compete.”

Timeline For Cyprus Basketball Team Getting To California

The team had a flight from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas on Monday, December 26. The Pirates made that flight, which was still delayed with passengers having to deplane and board the flight again before taking off. When the plane arrived in Las Vegas, Cyprus was cutting it close with their connecting flight to Long Beach and had about 20 minutes to connect.

The team rushed to their next gate only to find a long line of people and no information on the current status of their Long Beach flight. Coach Smith was talking to passengers waiting in the long line to see if the Long Beach flight had left the gate or what was going on. He heard from some people that the flight had left and others telling him it didn’t.

Since no information was provided at the gate by Southwest Airlines, the passengers found out that the Long Beach flight had no pilots or flight attendants, and everyone had to wait for both to arrive before boarding. The team waited at the gate from 8:00 a.m. PT to 3:00 p.m. PT before coach Smith started looking at a plan B.

Coach Smith decided to cancel their current flight and move it to an 8:00 a.m. PT flight to Long Beach on Tuesday morning. They thought about renting cars and making the drive but every rental car service at the Las Vegas airport didn’t have any vehicles available unless there was a reservation. So, the team booked hotel rooms at Circus Circus.

Tuesday morning, Cyprus showed up for their flight only to find out that it was canceled. Luckily for the Pirates, Coach Smith arranged a plan B when he booked the Tuesday flight. He reserved four SUV’s through an off-site rental car company in Las Vegas.

With that plan in place, the team still had to overcome their biggest challenge which was retrieving the seven bags that they checked before their Las Vegas flight. Among those bags were important items needed by the coaching staff and the uniforms for the players.

“There was no way we were leaving Las Vegas without our bags,” Smith said.

Then what Coach Smith considered the “greatest blessing” was a gentleman that worked for Southwest was talking to one of the assistant coaches and he was willing to go find their bags so they can start driving to West Covina.

After two hours of searching for seven bags, the Southwest employee found four of the bags in the area going to Long Beach and three bags were somehow heading for LAX.

It took the Pirates three-and-a-half hours to drive to their tournament destination. They arrived at 3:00 p.m. PT for their game that was scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. PT.

The travel exhaustion hit the Pirates on the floor in the first half against Rolling Hills Prep, trailing 17-15 but they hit another gear in the third quarter by outscoring the Huskies 13-9. The game went to overtime where Cyprus outscored Rolling Hills Prep 8-3 and picked up a 42-37 win. Pirates star guard Quentin Meza led the way with 19 points.

Cyprus will face Valencia on Wednesday, December 28 at 5:00 p.m. PT. American Fork, Lone Peak, and Skyridge are also participating in the Damien Classic. Lone Peak is in the Diamond bracket with Cyprus.

Cyprus wasn’t the only school to have issues with Southwest and getting to a tournament in California. Summit Academy is playing in the Whitney Tournament and had to drive to California after their flight was canceled.

After experiencing a chaotic 48 hours and finally arriving in California, Coach Smith was asked what he learned from this experience.

“It’s always worse for other people,” Smith said. “I talked to people that have been in the Airport since Christmas and won’t get out until Saturday. I am fortunate to have coaches help me out with this situation. We always found a way to put a positive spin on everything. No need to feel like a victim.”

Every Cyprus boys and girls basketball home game can be streamed on KSLSports.com.

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Cyprus Basketball Overcomes Travel Chaos To Play In California Tournament