Every season, every team starts the year with certain goals and expectations.
The sequential goals for the Monticello boys basketball team this season were to win a region title followed by a state title – achievable goals for sure.
Having secured the Region 19 title earlier in the month, the Bucks traveled to Richfield last week to try and meet their second and ultimate goal – be perfect at the 1A state tournament.
The journey for a state championship commenced on Wednesday night, February 27, when the Bucks (14-7) took the court against the Water Canyon Wildcats (11-10) at the Sevier Valley Center.
Water Canyon boasted a front line of players ranging from 6'9" to 6'4" and guards well over 6'0". The Wildcats’ size appeared to cause some early issues for the Bucks, who seemed a little intimidated – especially when in the paint.
With that said, the Bucks enjoyed a 17-11 first quarter lead that swelled to 32-21 at halftime.
The third quarter was a sluggish offensive quarter for both teams, but Monticello extended their lead to 42-26. In the final quarter Monticello got back on track and finished off the Wildcats, going away 63-39.
Lucas Hatch had a great game pouring in 26 points and connecting on four three-point shots. Spencer Knudsen also had a solid game with 16 points on five of six shooting.
However, the rest of the team was held in check. Adam Bunker scored six points with one three-pointer, Taylor Torgerson scored five points with one three-point basket, and Weston Nebeker scored four points. Dylan Bird, Britton Brewer, and Aaron Christensen all added one bucket each.
With the win, the Bucks (15-7) secured a match-up with the defending 1A state champion, the Panguitch Bobcats (16-7), the next afternoon.
The excitement of facing one of the top teams in 1A faded quickly for the Bucks, as they found themselves down to the Bobcats 25-7 after one-quarter of play.
The Panguitch lead would swell to 29-9 before Monticello battled back in the second quarter to make it 33-16 at the half. Monticello simply had no answer for Panguitch’s top two players who owned 25 of the Bobcats’ 33 halftime points.
The third quarter saw Monticello whittle away at the Panguitch lead, cutting it to eight at one point. However, the third quarter run faded, and Panguitch still owned a 42-30 lead going into the final period.
The fourth period was a bucket-for-bucket affair, but Monticello could not get any closer than 10 points and ultimately fell to Panguitch 57-44.
Lucas Hatch was again top point man, scoring 19 points with three three-point baskets.
Again, most of the Buckaroo seniors were held under their season scoring averages.
Taylor Torgerson had a solid game with nine points and one three. Adam Bunker and Weston Nebeker scored seven points apiece, with Britton Brewer and Spencer Knudsen adding a foul-shot each.
Dylan Bird and Cedar English were held scoreless in the game.
With the loss, Monticello’s goal of a 2019 state championship died. However, the goal at that point became staying alive through Saturday in the double elimination tournament. However, this would be no easy task for a couple reasons:
First, it’s disappointing to lose and see your dream disappear and still stay motivated to play, and second, you’re still facing good teams that won the first night and were top teams in their respective regions.
On Friday, the Bucks (15-8) would face a former number one team and region 22 champion, the Manila Mustangs (17-8), who lost to Bryce Valley the night before 59-48.
The game started slowly and had the appearance of a heavyweight fight, as the teams exchanged many scoreless trips up and down the court. At the end of the first quarter, Monticello held a 10-8 lead.
But in the second quarter, Monticello turned up the offensive heat, doubling up the Mustangs 18-9. The highlight of the quarter was a rare four-point play by Dylan Bird who hit a three-point shot and subsequent foul-shot during a Buckaroo run that led to a 28-17 Monticello halftime lead.
However, Manila showed some fight when they came out strong and won the third quarter by five points to narrow the Buck lead to 41-35 heading into the final quarter.
Again, the fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair, but Monticello did just enough to hold off the Mustangs by the score of 54-46 and guarantee a Saturday game against an all too familiar foe, the Valley Buffaloes (19-6), who won the same night 59-47 over the current number one-ranked Wendover.
Against Manila, Lucas Hatch was once again the top Buck scorer with 19 points and three treys.
Spencer Knudsen scored eight points, with Adam Bunker and Taylor Torgerson hitting for seven points each.
Dylan Bird and Weston Nebeker scored six points apiece, with Bird hitting one three-point shot. Britton Brewer added one free throw.
Call it tired legs, lack of motivation, or a down-day, but the Monticello Bucks came out flatter than flat against Valley, a team that beat Monticello in last year’s fifth place game.
This year, Monticello only scored four points in the first quarter and four points in the second quarter and found themselves down 21-8 at the half.
Both teams heated up offensively in the third quarter, but the Buffaloes still held a 40-27 lead at the end of three quarters. Monticello won the fourth quarter by a bucket but still dropped the game 53-42 to end their season with a seventh place tournament finish and a 16-9 overall record.
In the final game of their high school careers, seniors Lucas Hatch and Taylor Torgerson scored 11 and 10 points respectively with two three-point baskets apiece.
Adam Bunker scored nine points with one three and Spencer Knudsen added eight points.
Britton Brewer and Weston Nebeker ended their careers with a bucket each. Junior Dylan Bird was scoreless in the loss.
The Monticello boys basketball team had an up-and-down season, but all in all it was a fun season with some good wins. Although the boys fell short of their ultimate goal, years from now they will not remember the wins and losses but rather the good times and fun they had during the season as a team.
We’d like to thank all the coaches – Tony Esplin, Josh Keyes, Doug Christiansen, and Jake Palmer – for all the time and effort they put into the season and for being such a good example to the boys on and off the court.
The wives of these men also need to be thanked for their support and sacrifice during the course of the year that make a successful season possible. Your efforts are very much appreciated.
The Monticello girls also started the week with the hopes and dreams of playing a perfect week of basketball and ultimately hoisting a gold state championship trophy on Saturday.
The Lady Bucks (8-13) began their state title quest against the Wendover Lady Wildcats (16-5) on Wednesday, February 27 at Richfield High School.
Thanks to an effective full-court press installed by Coach Black, Monticello started the game well, jumping out to a 9-6 lead after one period of play. The Lady Wildcats settled down in the second quarter though, reducing their turnovers and taking a halftime lead over Monticello 23-21.
The third quarter was a great battle with the teams trading blows, but at the end of the period, the Lady Bucks still trailed Wendover 32-28.
That’s when the proverbial wheels came off for Monticello, as the Lady Bucks could only manage two points in the final quarter, ultimately dropping the game by the score of 43-30.
In the game, Monticello spread the scoring around, but not one Lady Buck scored in double figures.
Tymbr Black led the team with eight points and one three-point basket. Brooklyn Holt scored seven points and Rianna Shumway got five.
Megan Black scored four points, and Journey Baird and Tristen Esplin scored three apiece with Esplin making one three. Madison Freestone rounded out the scoring with one converted foul shot.
The loss dropped Monticello (8-14) into the consolation bracket where they would face the Water Canyon Lady Wildcats (3-13) on Thursday, February 28. The ladies also faced the win-or-go-home dilemma.
With their backs against the wall, the Lady Bucks built an 8-4 first quarter lead and a 23-16 halftime lead against the Lady Wildcats from Hildale.
Monticello exploded for 34 points in the second half and held Water Canyon to just 16 to secure the 57-32 win. The win guaranteed a Friday game against the Valley Lady Buffalos (14-9) at Richfield High School.
Nine Lady Bucks made it in the scoring column against Water Canyon. Tymbr Black and Rianna Shumway shared top scoring honors with 11 points apiece, and Shumway connected on one three-point shot.
Journey Baird had a nice game, scoring nine points, and Tristen Esplin added seven points with one three. Brooklyn Holt, Madison Freestone, Megan Black, and Saydee Adams all found the box score with a bucket each. Adri Lewis rounded out the scoring with one made foul shot.
Again facing elimination, the Lady Bucks tipped off against Valley from Region 20 on Friday morning at Richfield High School.
The teams may have been both wearing orange and black, but the game was very much a black and blue affair as they engaged in an up and down the court physical slugfest with plenty of bodies crashing to the floor.
Monticello seemed a little taken aback by the roughness of the game in the first quarter, dropping it 15-11. But in the second quarter, Monticello became the aggressor and seized control of the game by outscoring the Buffaloes 10-4 in the quarter to lead 21-19 at the half.
Unfortunately for the Lady Bucks, they came out a little flat in the third quarter and quickly fell behind 36-31 after three quarters of play.
A back-and-forth fourth quarter saw Valley take the quarter by one point to close out the game 48-42. The loss ended Monticello’s tournament run and season.
Senior Tymbr Black’s final game as a Lady Buck was a great one as she poured in 15 points, making the only Monticello three-point shot of the game.
Brooklyn Holt also played well, scoring nine points with senior Tristen Esplin adding eight.
Megan Black and Rianna Shumway each made a couple of shots to score four points in the game. Senior Journey Baird closed out her Lady Buck career scoring two points.
Monticello ends the year with a 9-15 overall record and a fourth place Region 19 finish.
The ladies had some great wins this year, including a 56-38 win over 3A Grand and a 53-47 road win against the Whitehorse Raiders, who finished fourth in this year’s 1A state tournament.
Coaches Kraig Black, Sean Getter, and Marcia Shumway did a tremendous job coaching the girls and should be thanked for all their time and efforts put in on behalf of the entire Lady Buck team.
Their spouses also deserve an expression of gratitude for all they do in support of their spouses and the program.
With sadness, another basketball season has come and gone.
However, we look forward to the 2019-2020 Monticello basketball season and what participation in 2A basketball and a new region will bring.