by Walter & Becky Bird
This week, Bird Scoop previews the new season for the Monticello Buckaroo Boys basketball team. To that end, Head Coach Tony Esplin answered five questions about the upcoming season:
1. With no real big man in the middle, what will be the style of play be for this team and will defense and rebounding be concerns?
“It will be kind of different without a big man as an inside presence. We will all have to do a better job rebounding, or it won’t get done. The offense will have to be spread out among everyone so we will need a lot of movement and screening to get people open and free for shots.
“We don’t have much depth, so we will have to be in good condition, play smart, stay out of foul trouble, and have a bunch of good luck to go without injuries, we can’t afford any injuries.”
2. Depth seems to be a concern this year, who do you expect to be the key contributors on the team?
“Everyone is going to have to play good defense, and help each other on defense for it to work. Our defensive focus hasn’t changed much over the years, good help team defense is our goal. Force tough shots, good rebounding, and teamwork to make it all happen.”
3. What are the strengths of this team? Weaknesses?
“I think we have a pretty good shooting team this year. For the most part we have some pretty good quickness.
“And the best part is we have “good kids”. That makes a big difference. Some of our weaknesses may be, lack of a power or inside game, lack of size, and especially depth. We have enough bodies, just not enough basketball playing experience.”
4. What are the teams in 1A to watch and where does Monticello fit in that mix? Any scheduled 1A games that stand out as must win games?
“Bryce Valley, Panguitch, Valley, Rich, Tintic, are all pretty good teams, not to mention Wayne, who is now in our region.
“If we stay healthy, stay out of foul trouble, learn to play together, we will be able to compete with all of the teams. It is going to be a battle I think for us this year to come out on top of region, and that is our goal.
“Each team in our region could give us trouble if we don’t play as a team. We can’t afford to be selfish or lazy.
“I don’t know that there are any must win games, with the exception of when we get into region, then every game is a must win game. Otherwise we just need to be playing our best ball the end of February, first of March.”
5. What will this team have to do to have a successful season and qualify for the 1A state tournament?
“I think I answered that above.”
The Deseret News published the following capsule on the boy’s team:
Head Coach: Tony Esplin (7th year)
2016-2017 Record: 13-11 (1st in Region 19 with a 8-0 record)
2017 Postseason: Lost to Parowan, 48-43, in the 1A consolation
Returning Starters: 3
Returning Contributors: Jake Freestone, Forward, Sr. - 11.1 ppg; Ryan Bird, Guard, Sr. - 4.7 ppg; Lucas Hatch, Guard, Jr. - 7.0 ppg.
Coach Comment: “With 3 returning starters, and a shallow bench due to lingering football injuries, it will be a different year. We will have to be in shape, avoid foul trouble, and stay injury free in order for us to compete. We showed some good things this summer, and are looking forward to what could be an interesting season.”
The boys start the season on December 5 at home when they host the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers.
On November 21, the Monticello girls basketball team took on the San Juan Broncos at home.
Each quarter was tight, but San Juan was able to come out ahead in each session to slowly build a lead and came away with a 46-36 win as the Bucks drop to 0-3 on the young season.
Monticello spread the scoring around as Alyssa Reeve, Megan Black and Tymbr Black each scored 8 points. Tristen Esplin and Ashley Adair also scored 4 points apiece. Brooklyn Holt and Erika Hill each scored a bucket.
Megan Black, Tymbr Black and Alyssa Reeve were the top rebounders with 8, 6, and 5 on the night. Tristen Esplin also added 4 rebounds to equal the team high with 4 steals. Ashley Adair also had 4 thefts. The lone made three-pointer of the night belonged to Megan Black.
Fortunately for the lady Bucks, they will have a full week of practice to work on some things before they travel to Cortez to take on the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers on Friday, December 1 at 7:30 p.m.