That’s it! It’s all over, even the shouting, for San Juan County basketball teams.
The “Buckaroo Brotherhood” as one newspaper wrote it, captured fifth place at the state tournament, playing four wonderfully contested, highly entertaining games, winning three.
The Bucks, set and determined to be the state champs, beat Valley in the opener, 52-41, before falling agonizingly to the Rich Rebels in the quarterfinals, 59-56 in double overtime on a 30-foot buzzer beater.
Regrouping, Coach Rhett Maughan’s “classy bunch” (MySportsGuy’s term) overcame their disappointment and bested Milford and Bryce Valley to claim the fifth place spot.
The tournament ends the era of four seniors who have started for most of three years and presided over 56 wins, including back-to-back seasons of 21-4.
Dallin Duncan, Devin Wright, Cory Young, and Kendall Maughan showed what true competition and sportsmanship are all about.
Let’s look at the tournament games, one by one.
Coach Maughan had his tie off and shirt untucked early in this first tournament game against an always tough Region 20 opponent, Valley.
Last year Region 20 finished first, second, and fifth, so the Bucks had their work cut out for them. The score was knotted at 25 at the half as the Bucks tried to shake off the pre-tournament jitters at the free throw line, which they did in the second half.
Devin Wright got the Bucks first bucket of the second half and after a Dallin Duncan rebound and put back and another basket off a beautiful Cory Young assist after a Kendall Maughan steal, the Bucks grabbed a lead they would never relinquish.
And the vaunted Monticello defense played their usually frenetic pressure style, the number one scoring defense in the state, as the Bucks triumphed, 52-41. Duncan scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead all scorers.
Next up, the Rich Rebels, who came from behind to beat the Bucks in the finale from last year.
This game turned out to be the game of the tournament in my opinion as both teams battled, clashed, skirmished, conflicted and competed in a masterful event.
The Rebels, riding the white hot shooting of Kayden Calder, who scored 22 points in the first quarter alone, dashed their way to a 28-14 lead halfway through the second quarter.
Things were looking bleak for the Bucks until Devin Wright righted the wrongs with a huge basket and foul shot, and the Bucks turned up the defensive pressure, slowly working their way back into the game.
After Wright added another basket, Cory Young converted on some hoop and some harm, and two key Gunnar Hollingsworth free throws just before half and the Bucks were right back in the contest, trailing only 32-27.
The second half was closely contended, with bodies flying, and everybody helping each other up. A thrill to watch for us old folks and a lesson learned about sportsmanship.
The game ended in regulation with each team with an opportunity to win it, knotted at 45.
In the first overtime, Rich squeaked their way to a minuscule lead and after sinking one of two free throws with 10 seconds left, held a three point, 51-48 lead. Basketball looked bleak for the Bucks, but bounding down the basketball court, browsing for the open Buck, the ball found its way into Kendall Maughan’s hands.
Maughan, a defensive specialist who hadn’t scored a point in two tournament games, calmly put up the wide open shot just before the buzzer.
And when the shot beautifully and thrillingly swished perfectly through the net to tie the score at the buzzer, the Bucks seemed to be on their way to a big win.
It seemed even more so when two Rich starters went to the bench with five fouls in the second overtime. But is would turn out to be Calder’s turn in the second overtime as the Rich senior, who finished with 39 points, hit a desperation 30-foot three pointer at the buzzer to send the Rebels, not the Buckaroos into the semifinals, 59-56.
For the game, Duncan scored 19 points, Wright 13 and Young 12.
The Bucks, wrestling with the brutal agony of the loss, gathered with the Rebels sometime after the game, offering their congratulations and discussing the monumental efforts of Calder in a great show of sportsmanship.
Then they regrouped to face another Region 20 opponent, Milford. Things looked rosy for the Bucks when they raced to a 15-3 first quarter lead, but Milford gave notice of their intention to give it their all, and by halftime, the Bucks lead was just 23-20.
Playing that tough signature defense, however, the Bucks maintained that slim lead throughout the second half, prevailing 48-45, sending Milford home and staving off elimination.
Duncan was the key for the Bucks as they continually got the ball in deep to the Buckaroo big man and he didn’t miss much, scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Little brother Jake contributed mightily off the bench, with nine points and six rebounds himself.
Finally, the fifth and seventh place game against, yep, another Region 20 foe, the Bryce Valley Mustangs, who upset the Bucks last year on their way to the state championship.
This time it was the Bucks time as they pulled away from a 45-45 tie at the end of three quarters to prevail, 59-46. In the first half, Devin, Cory, and Dallin were making their last game in a Buckaroo uniform look memorable as they raced to a 20-6 lead early in the second quarter.
Sound familiar? During that run the big Buckaroo three scored all but two Buckaroo points, including a dazzling Dallin Duncan dunk. But you knew it is how the 1A tournament goes, the Mustangs fought their way back to trail only 27-22 at halftime and actually took a two point lead near the end of the third quarter.
But it was the Buckaroos day, when the Mustangs took a 37-35 fourth quarter lead, the Bucks rattled off 11 points in a row to grab the lead.
Junior Terek Esplin had his best game of the week scoring 10 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals. Young ended his career with 17 points and five assists while Duncan added 16 points and 10 rebounds.