Bucks fall short in 2A state quarterfinal and consolation games
For the first time since joining the 2A classification two years ago, the Monticello boys basketball team earned a trip to the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield to play in the state quarterfinals with a shot at a state title.
Standing in their way was a formidable foe – the #2-ranked Layton Christian Eagles. The two teams had not played each other this season and had no common opponents, so the matchup promised to be interesting.
The Eagles appeared to be a solid team based on their 16-6 record and the fact they’d played a lot of games early in the year against solid 3A, 4A, and 5A teams with wins against West, Morgan, Emery, and East, and losses to Timpview and national power Wasatch Academy.
With that in mind, Monticello tipped off against Layton Christian Monday, February 22 with a trip to the 2A semifinals on the line.
The Eagles jumped out to commanding 14-3 first quarter lead, and although the Buckaroos bounced back with a solid second quarter, they still lost the quarter 18-15 to go down 32-18 at the half.
The second half was all Layton Christian as they pounded out a third quarter win of 12-8 to lead 44-26 going into the final quarter of play.
In that quarter, the Eagles snuffed out any hope of a Monticello comeback by nearly doubling up the Bucks 19-11 to secure a 63-37 win and a date the next day with the Parowan Rams in the semis.
The stat that quickly explains the result of the game was the shooting percentage of both teams. Layton Christian shot a good 51 percent from the floor including 33 percent from the three-point line.
Monticello only hit 29 percent of their shots and were unable to make a three-pointer on ten attempts. Another glaring stat is the rebounding edge, which was 38-22 in the Eagles’ favor.
In the loss, Cedar English was high point man with 12 points and added eight rebounds and three steals.
Devin Hatch and Cory Bunker hit for 11 and seven points respectively, with Hatch contributing four steals and a block and Bunker pulling down six rebounds with two steals.
Landon Ewart, Boston Freestone, and Grant Nebeker scored three, two, and two points, respectively.
The Bucks struggled defensively, giving up 40 points in the paint. That said, Monticello had more steals than the Eagles (14-13) and got 24 takeaways on the Eagles. MHS also took two offensive charges in the game and recorded one block.
The nice thing about making it to Richfield at this point in the season is that losing your first game in the SVC doesn’t end your season.
The Bucks had an opportunity to dust themselves off and play a consolation game the next day against the Draper APA Eagles, who lost to Parowan 61-51 in their quarterfinal matchup.
Unlike Layton Christian, both Monticello and Draper APA had faced San Juan and Grand earlier in the season. Monticello won one game against Grand and Draper APA lost both of their games with San Juan and Grand by double digits.
On paper it looked like Monticello had at least a shot at the team from Draper. When the game commenced it continued to look that way, as Monticello found themselves down just 19-15 after the first quarter.
The second quarter saw the Eagles tick ahead by another point but only hold a narrow 32-27 halftime lead.
Then, in the third quarter, Draper APA raced out to a 20-4 run that swelled their lead to 52-31 with only a quarter to play.
In the final period of Monticello’s season, the team bounced back to win the quarter by three points but the damage was done in previous quarters and the Bucks fell 66-48.
Only four Buckaroos made it into the scoring column. Cedar English finished his Monticello career with 20 points, hitting an impressive six three-point shots on 12 attempts. He also had eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
Cory Bunker also closed out his career as a Buck with 11 points, three rebounds, two assists, and a steal.
Devin Hatch also hit for double figures, pouring in ten points with one three while adding seven rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block.
Easton Young had a great game, scoring seven points with one three-pointer.
Seniors Joe Boyle and Grant Nebeker closed out their careers with Boyle recording an assist and Nebeker pulling down two rebounds.
Monticello again suffered from a frigid shooting night, hitting only 41 percent of their shots, but had a nice night from three-point range hitting 38 percent of those attempts.
Draper APA didn’t shoot much better, canning only 44 percent of their shots and 32 percent from beyond the arc.
The tale of the tape was in the paint, where Monticello was outscored 36-22 and on the boards where they were out-rebounded 34-24. Monticello also committed 19 turnovers in the game but only got 12 takeaways.
Although this was a disappointing finish to the season, Monticello has nothing to hang their heads about. They close the year with ten wins and 12 losses in a challenging 2A classification.
They made it to Richfield and come away with some great wins over Grand and Duchesne in the second half of the season.
Next year the Bucks will return to 1A competition and look to once again be a force.
Coach Josh Keyes had a great inaugural season as head coach and I know he appreciates the help he received this season from assistants Tony Esplin, Ryan Young, and Doug Christiansen.
Hopefully, good things are ahead for Monticello basketball. We’re sad we won’t be around to see it firsthand, but no matter where we are, we’ll always keep track of how the Bucks do in the years to come.