Following a week with the San Juan High School basketball teams losing five of six games, both the girls and boys bounced back with back-to-back wins to close out the regular season and build momentum headed into the 2A state tournament.
For the boys, it was an easy 99-79 win over Grand on Senior Night Wednesday, February 5 followed by a hard-fought 71-66 victory over Carbon in Price two nights later for their third straight win.
There wasn’t a lot of defense from either team on February 5 in the San Juan High School gym, but Bronco head coach Travis Black reports that the game was fun. San Juan led from the start and never allowed the Red Devils to get close.
Jaxon Torgerson was the standout for the Broncos with 34 points in the win. Amazingly, he wasn’t the highest scorer in the game as Grand’s Kaine Allred scored 37. Randall Flavel scored 14 for San Juan, Shaw Nielson got 13, and Ryan Imlay added 12.
Torgerson and Nielson both hit three treys apiece, Jensen Grover got two, and Cooper Black, Elijah Lee, and Ladd Ivins all got one apiece.
Two nights later in Price, UT, the Carbon Dinos provided much more of a challenge, but again, the Broncos never relinquished the lead from start to finish.
The atmosphere itself was part of the excitement. Carbon is one of the largest schools in the 3A ranks, so there was a big crowd on hand for what Black said was the “loudest gym we’ve been in all year.”
“It was the best defense we’ve played collectively all year,” he continued. “We rebounded really well and it was a good final win.”
Once again, Torgerson led the Broncos offensively with 25 points. Flavel and Imlay scored 13 apiece and Grover got 11 in the win.
San Juan didn’t go to the long ball much in the contest. Nielson scored two three-point baskets and Torgerson and Flavel got one each.
Black said he’s excited that the team is peaking at just the right time and getting help where they need it. “It’s a good time to be playing our best defense,” he explained.
“We’re hitting the boards hard. A lot of teams are keying on Flavel and he’s not getting the looks he did early on, so a lot of the kids are picking it up.”
He specifically called out Torgerson, who scored 59 points for San Juan in the last two games of the regular season. “He’s always been able to score, but this year he’s just become more of a complete player.”
With a 15-6 record, the Broncos finished the regular season in fifth place in the 3A RPI standings, earning a first-round bye. They’ll head right back up to Price to take on #12 Summit Academy (11-11) in round two Saturday, February 15 at Utah State University Eastern.
Black said the players and coaches are excited to begin the postseason and he doesn’t think San Juan’s historical jinx will come into play. He said the team will just take it one game at a time. It’s an early one on Saturday, tipping at 11:15 a.m. at USU Eastern.
The San Juan girls entered the final week of the regular season under .500. They had lost eight of their last nine games and were looking to right the ship and establish something positive headed into the state tournament.
The opening game of the week Tuesday, February 4 in Moab didn’t pose much of a challenge for the Lady Broncos, and they easily handled Grand 66-27.
But the girls knew their Thursday, February 6 showdown with Carbon in the San Juan High gym would be a different animal. The Lady Dinos were the number five team in the state, and San Juan would have to put together a complete game to upset them.
From the start, the Lady Broncos were on point. Their defense was stifling, leading to frustration among the Carbon players. San Juan got some solid shooting also, and held a 15-9 edge after one quarter of play.
Carbon rallied in the second quarter, but San Juan still held a four-point advantage at the halftime break. The Lady Broncos came out of the locker room on fire again in the third quarter, outscoring Carbon by seven to take a 44-33 lead into the final period.
And what a period it was! The teams combined for 43 points in the frame, Carbon scoring 22 and San Juan 21. When the dust settled, the Lady Broncos had upset the Lady Dinos 65-55 to finish the regular season on a two-game winning streak.
San Juan finished the regular season 11-10 overall, good enough for 11th in the state and earning the team a first-round bye. They’ll face #6 Emery for the third time this season in the second round.
In the two games combined, Tasiah Little led the way offensively for San Juan with 37 points and five three-point baskets. Madison Palmer scored 24 points on the week, Syannah Ketchum got 18 with four threes, and Quiana Dishface added 17 points.
Tyler Shumway got 14 points for the Lady Broncos in the last two games of the regular season, Sadie Brown had nine, and Brittany Grover and Emilie Palmer both scored six each.
But the real secret to the Lady Broncos’ success was their defense. “The girls finally realized that scoring will come, but it’s defense that wins games,” said San Juan Head Coach Laura Stearns.
She said the girls have put together one- and two-quarter defensive efforts all season long, but this was the first time they shut down a strong offensive team, pushed them around, and didn’t allow many down-low points.
It’s an impressive accomplishment for a team that lacks size, and Stearns said after the win the girls’ confidence level is where it needs to be as they head into the postseason. “They know they’re capable of beating Emery since they beat Carbon,” she explained.
It’s not going to be an easy road for San Juan. If they get past the #6 Lady Spartans, they’ll face #3 Grantsville in the state quarterfinals. And, of course, it gets harder each round of the tournament.
“We have some really smart girls who understand the game and can see the court and read each other,” Stearns said. “I hope they get that underdog mentality and they want to fight it out and they put it all out there on the court.”
They’ll have to maintain the high level of defense they established at home on February 6 if they want to see success at the state tourney.
They face Region 12 foe Emery in the nightcap at 9:10 p.m. at USU Eastern this Friday, February 14. The teams probably won’t exchange any valentines before the opening tip.
The San Juan High School wrestling team finished the 2020 3A Divisional Wrestling Tournament in Richfield January 31 and February 1 with five wrestlers in the top 10. Jeter Perkins was the top Bronco with a sixth place result at 160 pounds.
Landon Black came home seventh for the Broncos at 138 pounds, Kash Shumway and Dresden Seely got eighth at 138 pounds and 145 pounds respectively, and Tyler Bayles earned ninth place at 160 pounds.
All five wrestlers qualified for the state tournament and they’ll compete this weekend, February 14-15 at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT.