by Scott Boyle
The Monticello Buckaroos boys basketball team completed their season with a fine fourth place finish at the 1A State Tournament in Richfield last week.
The fourth place finish matches 2010 and betters the fifth place of 2011 and the best since the Bucks placed third in 1997 and won their only state basketball championship in 1994. The Bucks have become a competitive fixture at the 1A tournament once again with a 19-6 record on the year.
The Bucks started things off with a bang by besting the Wayne Badgers in the first round, 56-35. Monticello jumped to a 9-4 lead after one quarter, but then, led by the shooting of Austin Maloy and Gunnar Hollingsworth, ran off 12 straight points and led at halftime, 26-13.
Wayne closed to within nine, 32-23, in the third quarter, but the Bucks went on another 12-0 run paced by three point field goals by Tanner Eardley and Collin Hatch to push the lead to 44-23.
The Bucks kept the pressure on in the fourth to get that critical first round win for the fifth year in a row. Maloy and Jake Duncan led the Bucks in scoring with 12 points each.
Hollingsworth and Tanner Eardley both pitched in with seven points as nine Buckaroos found the scoring column.
The quarterfinals found the Bucks matched up against the Tabiona Tigers, over whom Monticello prevailed in a hard fought contest, 55-47, putting the Bucks in the semifinals.
Monticello had a hot start with Collin Hatch scoring seven points and Eardley and Hollingsworth both scoring six to race out to a 22-10 lead halfway through the second quarter, though the Tigers clawed back in the game to trail only 26-21 at halftime.
The Tigers made some runs in the second half, with a little help from a tightly-called game, but each time they did, Duncan, Eardley and crew kept the Buckaroos in front and ultimately winning.
Duncan scored 13 points, Eardley 12 as the deep Buckaroo bench saw eight Buckaroos score.
The semifinals against the Duchesne Eagles started out well for the Buckaroos, when they ran their way to a 24-13 first half lead.
But then the bottom fell out for the Buckaroos and the shots stopped dropping. Duchesne bottled up the Bucks inside and then outscored the Bucks the rest of the game 43-18 to tie the game at the end of the third quarter at 32-32.
Then they doubled up the Bucks in the fourth quarter, 20-10, to send Monticello to the third/fourth place game. Maloy had 16 points and Duncan had 14 to lead the scoring.
The shots continued to miss in the third/fourth game against the Rich Rebels. The Rebels scored the first nine points of the game and never trailed to beat the Bucks.
Monticello rallied a little to only trail 22-18 at halftime, but Rich poured it on in the second half as the Bucks shots simply would not go down. Rich outscored Monticello 37-22 in the second half to win going away, 59-40.
Duncan and Holllingsworth ended their MHS basketball careers by both scoring 10 and seven points respectively. Congratulations to them and to the team, including the other three seniors, Collin Hatch, Nash Freestone, and Zach Johnson. All represented San Juan County in a fine manner.
Ultimately, the Bryce Valley Mustangs won the 1A state championship with a double overtime win over Duchesne.
Duchesne wanted to send their legendary coach, Stan Young, off with a state championship in his final game after 39 years as a head coach and more than 500 victories.
Stan began coaching at Duchesne the year Sport-shorts graduated from high school, back in 1972. Duchesne won the state championship in football this year to go with a second place trophy in basketball after that double overtime loss in the final.
It was just 43 short years ago that Monticello accomplished the exact same feat, winning the Buckaroos first state football championship, 7-6, in 1969 over the highly favored Beaver Beavers and taking second in the 1A state tournament, losing in double overtime to the South Sevier Rams.
Amazingly, Sportshorts was at both of those events, and even had on a football uniform in one of them. I can’t seem remember the final score of the basketball double overtime thriller. However, I’m sure Blen Freestone and Steve Young do. You could ask them for not only the score but a second by second account, I’ll bet.
The win for Bryce Valley is a healing balm for the communities of Tropic, Cannonville, and Henrieville, who suffered the pain of having ten people in the communities pass away in the past year, including the head basketball coach Eric Jessen’s son, Jesse Jessen.
Jessie lost his life in a car accident just last August. He was a budding baketball star for the Mustangs, having led his sophomore team to the sophomore region championship in 2012 while playing important minutes for his dad’s varsity team, which took second place at last year’s 1A tournament.
He scored two points and grabbed three rebounds against the Buckaroos in last year’s state tournament, helping BV beat the Bucks 47-41 in the quarterfinals.
Big number 35 was hard to miss, what with bright red hair and 6’8” height. The oldest of five children, it is said that Jesse was a humble giant, friendly to everyone and an example to all.
If you watched the championship game Saturday night, you might have noticed a red headed player sitting on the bench with the #35 jersey on. That is Jesse’s younger brother, who, as the game finally looked to go BV’s way after two overtimes, would simply hold up a number 35 Bryce Valley jersey.
A poignant reminder of what is really important. Congratulations to Bryce Valley High School and all the best.