by Scott Boyle
The Monticello Buckaroos ended their basketball season on Saturday at the 1A state tournament with a hard-fought 46-42 win over the Bryce Valley Mustangs to capture third place.
In the third/fourth place game, MHS rode the back of senior Sheldon Black for the last time, as he poured in 17 points and four treys to key the Buckaroo win.
Monticello took an early 4-0 win on baskets by Black and Matt Freestone after Bryce Valley missed their first nine shots and 11 of their first 12 to open the game.
But then the Bucks went cold, and the Mustangs reared up and scored the next nine points, eventually leading the Buckaroos 10-7 after one quarter.
The Mustangs, who looked a little tired playing their fifth game of the week and eighth game in 10 days, still forged a six point lead at halftime, 24-18. The Bucks were led at half by Black, who had nine points.
The Bucks went inside to Freestone in the second half, and he responded with two quick buckets to get the Buckaroos going, and when he scored on a three point play midway through the quarter after two Tyler Bird free throws and a Black basket, the Bucks had the lead they would never relinquish at 29-26.
Black added five points to Freestone’s seven to outscore the Mustangs 14-4 in the quarter to take a 32-28 lead going into the last quarter.
The Bucks kept the Mustangs at bay in the fourth quarter too, even though the Mustangs closed to within two points, 42-40, with one minute left.
But Tyler Bird calmly stepped to the foul line and sank two free throws to put the lead back to four, and with 15 seconds left, and the score 44-42, Bird did it again, swishing two free throws to give the Bucks the win and third place.
The tournament started off well for the Bucks with a first round win over Region 17 #4 seed, the Manila Mustangs, 60-44.
In only the second game ever against Manilla, Monticello ran to a quick 16-3 lead at the end of the quarter after Sheldon Black and Tyler Bird both knocked down some three point shots.
Head coach Tony Esplin got some younger players into the game early in the quarter, and by the end of the quarter, ten Buckaroos had been in the game. The second quarter was all Monticello as well, as they extended the lead to 31 to 16.
In the second half, Buckaroo subs got lots of playing time as Black, Matt Freestone and Bird helped the Bucks out to a 21 point lead at one point.
Black led the scoring with 20 points and four treys. Bird wasn’t far behind with 14 points and tenacious D while Freestone finished with 11 points.
Next up for the Buckaroos was the Tintic Miners, the first ever meeting with the Miners, who were fresh off only their second win at state in 30 years.
The game started even-steven in the first quarter with a couple of lead changes and ended in a 12-12 tie. The second quarter was similar until the Bucks were able to forge a five point lead just before halftime at 23-18.
In the third quarter, behind two treys by Black and Freestone, the Bucks moved out to an 11 point lead at 35-24, only to see the Miners get back within seven at the end of the third quarter, 35-28.
But the Bucks were able to extend the lead back out to 11 quickly in the fourth quarter and maintained that lead to the end, sending themselves into the semifinals against the Rich Rebels, 49-35.
Black again led in scoring with 14 points, with Freestone adding 10 and Everett Hatch seven.
It was the Rich Rebels in the semis for the Buckaroo basketball team, some members of which remember the thumping the Rebels gave the Bucks in the football semis last fall.
But it was more of the same in the basketball semis as well, as the Rebels dominated, 56-42.
The Rebels clamped a stifling defense on the Bucks right from the get-go while finding the basket easily themselves to forge a 12-0 lead before the Bucks had even taken two shots.
They lead 12-2 at the end of the first quarter and stretched that to 20-4 before the Bucks began finding the net.
Three three-pointers, two by Black and one by Bird, kept the Bucks in the game, and it was 25-13 by halftime.
In the second half, though they gamely played, the Bucks could never get closer than 10 to the eventual state champion Rebels, finally succumbing by 14 points.
The Rebels have played the Buckaroos six times in basketball now, winning five of those games. The only win for Monticello over Rich in basketball was in the 1A Preview at Richfield in 2012.
The Rebels beat the Bucks in the quarterfinals in 2013 and also won a memorable two overtime game in 2011 in the quarterfinals, a game that featured two buzzer beaters, a Kendall Maughan three at the end of the first overtime to send the game into another overtime and Rich hit the game winning three pointer from 40 feet to get the 59-56 win.