by Scott Boyle
The Monticello Lady Bucks did something last week that no girls team at MHS has done in over 20 years, beating the Rich Lady Rebels basketball team and thereby reaching the semifinals of a state girls basketball tournament and eventually placing fourth in the process.
With a gritty 56-53 over the Rich Rebels, the Lady Bucks earned their place in the top four of girls basketball since 1993. But their trip to the final four didn’t end so well, as the Bucks lost to both Panguitch in the semis and Bryce Valley in the consolation finals, ending their excellent season just like it started, with losses to the Bobcats and Mustangs.
The matchup against the Rebels came about after coach Ben Wolford’s team won their opener in the 2016 tournament over the Wayne County Badgers, 67-63.
Allie Maughan scored a career high 18 points and Atlanta Black added 24 as the Bucks prevailed. Michaela Wolford pitched in with 16 to give the Buckaroos a triple threat to be reckoned with.
It was the foul line where the Bucks did the most damage, shooting 40 freebies and making 26 to keep the Badgers at bay.
Wayne’s world was in good shape after one quarter however, leading Monticello 15-14. But after Wolford scored five quick points midway through the second quarter, the Lady Bucks took the lead for good at 22-19.
The Bucks made seven of 10 free throws in the last three minutes of the half to forge a 30-23 lead at halftime.
Monticello stretched the lead to 10 in the third quarter, at 39-29, but the Badgers didn’t back down and got within five at 49-44 after three quarters. Monticello closed out the game, even though Maughan fouled out with four minutes remaining, by making 10 of 16 foul shots in the fourth quarter.
Hoping to get to the semifinals, the Lady Buckaroos had to get past the Rich Lady Rebels, a team they have played only three times previously, but never beat.
It looked to be four defeats in the first quarter, as the Buckaroos missed the first nine shots they took in the quarter and watched the Rebels turn them into seven layups and one trey to cruise to a 17-6 lead.
If not for a six for six quarter at the foul line and Atlanta Black’s bucket with 30 seconds left, the Bucks could have been down way behind instead of 17-8 after one quarter.
The second quarter saw the Bucks defense tighten, the free throws continue to drop and the Bucks tie the game at 17, even though they made just six of 24 shots from the field to trail by just one at the half, 25-24.
For the half, the Buckaroos made 12 of 14 free throws, with Black seven of eight, Wolford four for four and Isabel Slade one of two.
In the third quarter, the teams traded baskets, but the Bucks finally got the lead they would never relinquish when Atlanta Black canned a three pointer to give the Bucks a 33-32 advantage and the emotional advantage as well.
Wolford hit another three near the end of the quarter to give the Bucks the 44-39 edge after three quarters.
The game remained tight in the fourth quarter, though MHS kept the lead. Maughan made two free throws with four minutes remaing to give the Bucks a three-point lead, 49-46.
Rich had closed within one with three minutes to go when Ashley Adair hit a key jumper to get the Bucks back to three at 51-48.
Three more Allie Maughan free throws wrapped up the game for the Bucks and, after shooting just 34 percent from the field, the Bucks made 22 of 34 free throws to get to those elusive semis.
Their opponent, the Panguitch Bobcats, who are, like, 75-2 the last three years, owned a 62-31 season opening victory over the Bucks and two of the three games overall with the Bucks.
The trip to the semifinals for the first time since 1993, however, wasn’t pretty for the Lady Bucks as their shooting woes continued, they couldn’t get to the foul line and the two time defending state champion Panguitch Bobcat defense made it tough for the Bucks to even get a shot off.
And when they did, more often than not, it was blocked by the tall Bobcats. In the face of that Bobcat defense, the Bucks made only one of five shots in the first quarter, not even scoring until 1:50 mark, and coughed up six turnovers.
The Bobcats led 12-2 after one quarter. At halftime the Bucks were 3-15 shooting and trailed 18-7.
But the third quarter was one of nearly total futility for the Buckaroos.
After scoring two buckets and trailing just 20-11 with 5:35 remaining in the quarter, Monticello went 11 minutes and 10 seconds without scoring again, missing 13 shots in a row, all while watching the Bobcats reel off 27 straight points to put the game out of reach, 47-11.
On the night, the Bucks were a dismal 7-34 from the field. The final score, 52-20, left the Bucks in the third/fourth consolation game against the Bryce Valley Mustangs.
The Buckaroos and the Mustangs have met seven times before, with Bryce Valley winning all seven, including a 36-18 win way back in early December.
Unfortunately, the Mustangs made it 8-0 over Monticello as the Lady Bucks still simply could not find the basket on a consistent basis.
Shooting just fine from the foul line, making 11-15, 73 percent for the night, MHS was woeful from the field again, hitting on only 10 of 34 shots.
Fifteen turnovers didn’t help either, but the Ladies stayed in the game with a determined defensive effort. Tied at six after one quarter and tied again at 19 at halftime, the Bucks stayed valiantly in the game.
It wasn’t until Bryce Valley cranked off four treys in the third quarter that the Bucks fell behind and couldn’t catch up, eventually falling 47-31.
As she has all season, Atlanta Black led the Bucks in scoring with 17 points, 9-12 from the foul line and six rebounds.
Allie Maughan scored six before fouling out early in the fourth quarter for the young Bucks, who have everybody back next year except seniors Kari Schmidt and Amy Rogers.
Congratulations on an outstanding season, girls, thanks for the memories and a thousand shots a day until net year!!
The MHS boys won two of three over the past two weeks, with the most important win coming over the Monument Valley Cougars last Friday night in Monument Valley. The win, an 82-41 triumph, clinches for the Buckaroos the outright Region 19 championship and the number one seed from the region for the state tournament in Richfield, March 2-5.
Earlier, the Bucks swept the season series against the Grand County Red Devils by beating them in Monticello, 52-40.
Matt Freestone and Eli Johnson led the Bucks with 13 and 12 points respectively. Nolan Freestone pitched in with nine as the Bucks led mostly from start to finish.
Last week, the Bucks traveled to Ignacio, CO, were they lost to the Bobcats, who are 15-2 on the season in Colorado.
Coach Esplin has played the Bobcats this time of year for several years now, to give the Bucks another quality opponent before the state tournament begins.
This time the Bucks had the game seemingly in hand when things went south. Leading by nine late in the fourth quarter, the Bucks saw the home town team come storming back to win by four, 49-45. No stats were available for the game.