After three games in five nights, the Monticello Buckaroo boys basketball team may have found themselves, compliments of a 62-35 pasting of Grand County Red Devils. And this, the night after the Red Devils upset the San Juan Broncos in Moab, 61-45, but more on that later.
It was the Buckaroo’s week, even though they were blasted themselves by the Green River Pirates on Tuesday in Green River.
The Bucks were completely dominated by Green River and their state-leading scorer Justin Johnson. Johnson didn’t disappoint as he scored 36 points on the defenseless Bucks and dished off to teammate Erick Mendez, who scored 18 points himself, mostly on uncontested layups when the Bucks double or triple teamed Johnson.
Green River doubled the Bucks in the second quarter to take a 39-26 halftime lead and poured in on in the second half to win easily, 74-47.
Austin Maloy led the Bucks with ten points, but spent most of the night in foul trouble trying to guard Johnson. Gunnar Hollingsworth, Jake Duncan, and Jared Smith all pitched in with eight points.
But the lopsided loss spurred the Buck’s pride, I think, as they called a players-only meeting shortly thereafter to discuss their effort and commitment.
The tide seemed to turn Friday night, when the Buck’s effort improved. They turned a 13-12 halftime lead into a 43-35 region road win over the Whitehorse Raiders.
The Bucks were impressive from the foul line, making 21-26 freebies for 81 percent, including scoring 15 of their 17 points in the fourth quarter from the foul line when the Raiders attempted a desperate comeback on their home court.
Terek Esplin scored a career high 12 points to lead the Bucks. Duncan added 12 too, Hollingsworth nine, and Maloy eight.
On Saturday night, however, the Bucks came out screaming against the high flying Red Devils. Playing frenetic defense, the Bucks held Red Devil leading scorer, Zak Hazlett, to only two points.
Monticello used a patient offense and feverish offensive rebounding against the Red Devil zone defense to forge a surprising 21-9 first quarter lead, a lead they pushed to 39-21 by halftime.
Esplin, Hollingsworth, and Duncan led the offensive onslaught with eight points each in the first half. Hollingsworth added three blocks, a steal, and three rebounds (two offensive) in that first half.
Duncan was everywhere himself, grabbing four rebounds, including three offensive boards, blocking two shots and making three steals. By the end of the quarter, all five starters had scored and when Collin Hatch came off the bench and canned a three almost immediately, the rout was on.
Head Coach Tony Esplin substituted freely and the bench responded as well, contributing 15 points on the night, led by Hatch’s six. Twelve Bucks scored in all, with Duncan leading the way with 17, Hollingsworth 15 and Esplin nine in the break out win.
Next up, the Broncos from San Juan Tuesday night in a rematch of that epic overtime game in December.
While the Bucks seemed to find themselves, the Broncos struggled, suffering two more region losses, 61-45 to Grand County and 53-43 to Emery.
The Broncos let a three point lead, 40-37, at the beginning of the fourth quarter get away from them in Moab Friday night, when the Red Devils outscored them 24-5 to win going away. It is the first Red Devil win over the Broncos since 2007.
Barkley Christensen popped in 18 points with three treys, but in the fourth quarter the Broncos could not find the hoop. Landon Palmer helped with ten points and Logan Meyer added nine.
The Broncos were outscored 15-6 in the third quarter in their road game against Emery on Saturday to fall by the score of 53-43. It is the Bronco’s third region loss in a row. The key difference was probably the 23 free throws the Spartans made out of 32 attempts, compared to the Broncos’s 11 of 16.
The Lady Broncos won both of their region contests to even their region record at 2-2. First up was an easy 49-19 pounding of the Lady Red Devils from Moab. The Broncos raced to a 30-5 halftime lead, including a 12-0 lead after one quarter and never looked back.
Jolene Kirk, Sade Kyles, and Teal Palmer each scored eight, with Brooke Lyman adding seven.
The next night, the Ladies squeaked by the Spartans from Emery, 56-53. Jolene Kirk lead the Broncos to the home win with 19 points, tying her career high. Brooke Lyman (11 points) and Lindsey Christensen (ten) were also instrumental in the victory.
With their leading scorer, Swayzi Slade, still nursing a sore ankle, the Lady Bucks went 1-1 on the week, beating Grand 35-29 behind Martha Beh’s 13 points, but losing to the Lady Raiders in Mussi Creek by 11, 40-29.
No Buckaroo could do better than Beh’s six points as the lid was on the basket throughout. That happens sometimes, doesn’t it? The loss drops the Buckaroos region record to 2-2 and leaves them in fourth place.
The Buckaroos and Broncos have always had close ties, but this year, the Red Devils teams might be closer relations to the Bucks than the Broncos.
The Red Devils boast a host of Monticello connections, including Hugentoblers, Helquists, McDougalls, Risenhoovers, Cooks, Whites, Daltons and Stocks.
It can ceratinly help make family reunions more enjoyable when your side wins. Monticello’s victory helps avenge a Grand victory earlier in the season.