by Scott Boyle
“They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.”
– Wilt Chamberlain
It seems to be a new thing in 1A basketball, the triple header.
Just like the MHS Lady Bucks experienced in November to open their season, the MHS boys played a three-fer at the 1A Preview in Richfield last weekend.
Opening up, the boys faced off against the Bryce Valley Mustangs, a team they’ve met many times in Richfield over the past ten years, mostly at the state tournament.
Of the four state tournament games the two schools have played, the Bucks have won two of the four, all close contests including last season’s tournament, where Monticello beat the Mustangs to grabbed third place, 46-42.
Bryce Valley upset the Bucks in 2012, 47-41, on their way to BV’s lone state basketball championship. This was their second meeting in the Preview, with BV winning the other one in 2006, 61-52.
This season, the win went to Bryce Valley again, 46-40, despite a furious comeback attempt by the Buckaroos in the fourth quarter.
A sluggish start, actually, a lethargic three quarters doomed MHS against the Mustangs.
Bryce Valley opened up a 14-9 lead after one quarter which they stretched to a six point lead by halftime at 35-19.
The Bucks cold shooting just got colder in the third, where BV jumped on the Bucks to built a 17 point lead at the end of three quarters.
The comeback by the Bucks got them to within four points with just a minute to go, but ultimately fell short.
Tyler Bird was the only Buckaroo in double figures with 10 points in the loss.
Matt Freestone scored eight and Carson Duncan six on the inside, while Eli Johnson added eight and Tobyn Esplin five.
Nolan Freestone scored four points to round out the Buckaroo scoring.
Saturday morning’s game with the Piute Thunderbirds was the exact opposite as the first game.
The Bucks came out with energy, passion and effective inside play to forge an exciting 73-66 win.
Andrew Torres started the Bucks scoring on a basket just seconds into the game after which Freestone had three easy inside baskets plus a “and one” but the teams were tied at 12 after one period.
Early in the second period, Torres scored another two and Esplin hit a three off the bench along with Duncan added three baskets as the Bucks jumped to a seven point led at 19-12.
Then it was Piute’s turn for a run with nine straight points to take the lead at 21-19, which they stretched to nine just a minute from halftime at 30-21. The Bucks got back within five by scoring the last four points of the half, 30-25.
After getting outscored 15-4 by Bryce Valley in the third quarter on Friday, the determined Bucks turned the tables on the Thunderbirds, going on a 11-0 run to start the third.
Keeping the pressure on the shorter T-Birds, the Bucks poured it on with Freestone getting three buckets, and the guard line of Johnson, Bird, and Torres contributing 12 points, as the Bucks outscored Piute 30-9 in that stretch to lead 51-39 at the end of three quarters.
The lead stretched to 16 points with six minutes left before Piute used their press to make things interesting, getting with six points, but the Bird kept them at bay with foul shots and when Duncan blocked a BV layup attempt in the last 20 seconds and adding his own layup seconds later, the game was won, 73-66, and Monticello had their fourth win against two losses all time against Piute.
All but one of those games came in the Preview, with the Bucks 45-42 win in their lone state meeting, being the catalyst to their state championship season.
With legs holding out well, the Bucks took on the Valley Buffaloes in the third game, a team they’ve only met twice in the past 10 years, with Monticello winning both.
The last time the two met was in 2011 at the state tournament, where MHS prevailed 52-41. This time was more of the same with the Bucks winning 50-32 on the back of Matt Freestone’s 17 points.
Monticello started well, leading after one quarter, 11-7, as Nolan Freestone scored four points and Duncan, three.
The Bucks exploded in the second quarter, when Bird scored on two quick baskets and Matt Freestone added three and Duncan two more buckets to push the Buckaroo lead to 13 at halftime, 27-14.
Freestone had his best game of the season so far, with nine second half points to keep the Bucks on top until the end. In addition to Freestone’s 17, Duncan scored nine points, Nolan Freestone eight, and Tyler Bird six, extending the Buck’s season record to 3-1.
Next up, Thursday in Monticello against the Montezuma Cortez Panthers.
Meanwhile, the Lady Bucks were traveling 300 miles to play the Lady Broncos of San Juan in the Kanab Invitational.
Despite Atlanta Black’s game high 14 points, the Broncos prevailed in the game 37-31. Tyla Morris pace the Broncos with 12 points including two treys.
In a seesaw battle, San Juan led after one quarter, 11-7, but Monticello’s offense found some life and the Bucks actually lead at halftime 18-16.
The second half belong more to the Broncos than the Buckaroos, where SJ outscored the Bucks 21-13 to get the six point win and drop Monticello to 1-4 on the season.
Michaela Wolford added six points for MHS while Ashley Adair scored five.
However, the Lady Bucks regrouped for their Saturday game against another 2A team, Gunnison Valley. In a close battle throughout, the Buckaroos prevailed 38-34.
Turning a tied score of 10-10 after one quarter into a three point halftime lead, 21-18, Black pushed the Bucks to the win with 15 points.
Wolford pitched in with a double figure night as well, scoring 11. Isabell Slade had her best scoring night of the season for the 2-4 Buckaroos with seven points.
The Ladies play Montezuma Cortez in Monticello on Tuesday and host the San Juan Broncos again on Friday night.
Ten Buckaroos were recently named all-state in volleyball and football this past week. Five girls from the volleyball team, who placed second to Panguitch at the 1A tournament in October are now Buckaroooooo Alllll-staters.
Senior Averi Christiansen and junior Atlanta Black were both named first team all-state, while junior Izabell Slade was second team, Allie Maughan, a junior, was third team and departing senior Molly Anderson was honorable mention.
Christiansen and Anderson were also named to the All-State Academic team for volleyball.
First teamers Andrew Torres and Paul DeAnda, a senior and junior respectively, highlight the five Buckaroo football all-staters, who lost in the quarterfinals this year to the Rich Rebels.