Part of growing up for most sports fans includes backyard games where one always imagines oneself making the game winning shot or hitting the game winning home run or catching the touchdown pass that wins on the last play of the game. Storybook stuff.
So the top four storybook ending stuff of the year for Sportshorts in reverse order are:
4. The conclusion of the high school athletic and academic careers of Kelsi Meyer and Cameron Shumway of San Juan, Devin Wright of Monticello, Katie Hiatt of SJH and Macee Nielson of MHS. All five contributed on the varsity levels of their sports for four years, logging significant playing time as freshmen, which continued unabated for four years.
Now, I might have some of this wrong but a list of the accomplishments of these five student athletes: Meyer, a three sport athlete, was named to seven all state teams in volleyball, basketball and softball, three academic all-state teams in the same sports and led her teams to four state championships, two in volleyball and two in softball, along with two seconds. She was also named MVP in volleyball and softball.
Shumway was named to four all-state teams, two each in basketball and football, and led his team to back to back state championships in football, being named MVP his senior year. He also was instrumental in helping his basketball team to a third place finish his senior year.
Wright was named all-state four times as well, in football and basketball, leading his basketball team to the best two year record in MHS school history, 42-8, and winning two state titles in javelin, while leading his track team to a second place finish in 2011.
Devin was named the Wendy’s Heisman award winner for the entire state his senior year. He also was named to three academic all state teams in football, basketball and track. Wright is now throwing the javelin for the Utah State Aggies track team.
Hiatt had a stellar running career for the Broncos, placing second three times at the state cross country meet, while leading her team to two state championships and a second place finish. Hiatt also finished second four times in the 1600 and 3200 m runs at state track meets and was named to two academic all state teams in cross country and track.
Nielson, who helped her teams to several third place finishes in cross country and track, finished her career with two individual state championships in cross country and four in track. She currently runs for the University of Utah cross country team.
3. SJ winning state title in softball in May. The Broncos were stifling in the 2011 state softball tournament, with Abby Bayles shutting down hitters by tossing two shutouts in the early rounds and the Lady Bronco bats blasting the opposition off the mound.
The Broncos outscored their opponents 40-4 in the tournament. But the Broncos met a formidable opponent in the finals in the Grand County Red Devils and their own stellar pitcher, Shelby Dalton.
Facing Grand for the fifth time of the year in the championship match, and finding themselves stymied by Dalton, who averaged 10 strikeouts per game, in a 0-0 game in the third inning, the Lady Broncos used the weather and L’Sha Eldredge’s bat to write a story book ending.
With two base runners finally for the Broncos poised to score in the third inning and Eldredge at bat, a violent, threatening lightning storm forced a 45-minute delay. After the delay, Eldredge, a sophomore, returned to face Dalton, and lashed the very first pitch over the fence for a three run homer, which were all Bayles would need to get the win.
Eldredge added a two run double later in the game for good measure as the Broncos won the 2A championship, 6-1
2. Monticello Volleyball winning the state championship. The Bucks cruised their way through a nearly flawless season, at one point winning 15 consecutive matches without losing a set. But they were up against the vaunted Rich Rebels in their Buckaroo quest for the first state championship in volleyball since 1987.
The main reason they hadn’t won a state championship in all those years was that Rich had won them all, or most of them, 14 of the last 17 and 2000 in all or something like that.
And most folks in the immediate vicinity figured the Rebels would easily grab their 2000 and oneth. Everyone except the Lady Bucks, that is.
With seniors Swayzi Slade, Martha Beh, Jamie Keyes, Robin Randall and Allyson Anderson leading the way, the Lady Bucks captured the first game, 25-21, in a game that wasn’t that close.
MHS lead early and steadily pulled away to shock the overconfident Rebels. And when they won the second and third games just as convincingly, the state title was theirs to savor, along with Coach Tony Esplin, who won his first state title.
So stunning was the victory that one paper named a Rich Rebel player as the MVP. It was as if they just couldn’t quite grasp the fact that the Rebels had lost. They not only lost, they were routed and dominated, story-book style.
And my number one story-book ending. Monticello boys basketball, when for a few moments, all the back yard last second shots paid off for one Buckaroo.
The Monticello boys basketball team, under coach Rhett Maughan, were starting the stretch run to the state championship in 1A basketball after placing fourth in 2010 when they lost to eventual champion Bryce Valley, and fell just short of their state championship goal.
After posting an 18-3 regular season record in 2011, the Bucks were one of the favorites to win the 2011 state title. And after dispatching Valley, 52-41 in the opener, the Bucks found themselves facing the same Rich Rebels who had ended the Bucks 2010 season with an aggravating loss.
The Rebels jumped to a big first half lead, at one point doubling the Bucks score at 28-14. But the Bucks, with Dallin Duncan, Devin Wright and Cory Young leading the way offensively as they had all season, came roaring back to only trail by five at halftime, 32-27.
And when they took the lead in the second half, it looked like the Bucks were on their way to the semis. But Rich battled back to tie it and when both teams missed opportunities to win it in the last 10 seconds, the teams went to overtime.
The overtime period saw the Rebels slowly inch on top and with 8.6 seconds left, the Bucks found themselves down 50-47, with the ball out of bounds.
The plan was to get the ball to three point specialist, Cory Young, who averaged double figures on the year, including 30 treys, or two treys per game.
But after a frantic seven seconds of trying to get the ball to Young, the ball found its way into hands of starting senior point guard, Kendall Maughan.
Maughan, a defensive specialist, was not known for his shooting. In fact, he averaged a mere two points per game his senior year and had made only one three pointer all year.
Maughan hadn’t even scored in the two tournament games. But as fate would have it, and as happens millions of times in backyards of us all, the ball magically found its way into his hands with one second on the clock.
Maughan serenely launched a rainbow of a three pointer, one that seemed to pause in the sky longer than a school day on December 23rd. And as the whole Buckaroo nation crossed their fingers, hoped to die, stuck a thousand needles in their eyes, the ball swished convincingly through the net.
Virally, that whole Buckaroo nation stormed the court as the storybook moment swelled the hearts of all fans. Maughan nailed the biggest shot of his high school career!
Thanks, Kendall, and thanks to all the San Juan County athletes who continue happily bring out the essence of youth in all of us.