Two free throws, and the weight of the world on your shoulders
Wow, what an amazing year for the San Juan Broncos! They added a basketball championship to the football trophy and left 1,001 incredible memories along the way.
What is you favorite memory?
My favorite memory of the season is unique. It is something that happened long before the bedlam of the closing seconds of the state tournament.
It was during a hot day in late July, in the middle of a Blanding summer.
I went to San Juan High School late in the day hoping to find an administrator or secretary who could help me coordinate the many details of the upcoming school year.
The pieces were coming into place for a great season for the Broncos as the San Juan Record, Redrock Radio, and pictureitpalmer.com resumed our partnership to broadcast the games far beyond the confines of the field or the gym.
Our sponsors were ready to go, the video team at pictureitpalmer.com (Lane Palmer and Kayleb Carr) were excited to use the latest video technology, Rhett Sifford was ready as the Voice of the Broncos, and Taylor Black had just joined the team to provide color commentary during the football broadcasts.
We were so excited about Taylor. He was perfect: young, enthusiastic, full of life and insight and fun, and the ultimate Bronco super-fan.
Of course, it was for the football season only as Taylor was an assistant coach for the basketball team, which included his son Jayden.
But on this day, the entire season was in the future. The football title was being contested only in the weight room, and the basketball title was only a hope.
I wandered through the halls of a dark and quiet school, fruitlessly looking for someone.
Of course no one was there. It was the final days of summer and who in their right mind would be at the empty school?
I was leaving the school when I heard something coming from the gym.
I saw the door to the gym was open, but it seemed too dark for anyone to be there. However, the unmistakable sound of bouncing basketballs let me know someone was there.
I poked my head into the gym, waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, and saw Jayden Black shooting free throws.
Only one light was on in the entire gym, but there was Jayden shooting free throw after free throw, with Assistant Coach Easton Nielson rebounding and providing assistance.
It was a quick and impressive moment and I stepped away before they even saw me.
I may not have remembered the moment, but two days later, word spread of the shocking and unexpected death of Taylor Black. Taylor left a grieving widow, four young children, and a devastated community.
You cannot recover from a tragedy like this quickly, and you never do fully recover. But Jayden became an important contributor to the Broncos. He averaged nine points, five rebounds, two assists, and shot 72 percent from the free throw line throughout the challenging season.
Even though San Juan dropped three regular season games to region opponents, they earned the top seed in the state tournament. But like everything else in this season, they would have to work hard to claim the championship.
The opponent, Enterprise, had stunned the Broncos earlier in the season, when they scored eight points in the final 30 seconds to earn a win in Blanding.
In the championship game, Enterprise led by eight at halftime and kept that lead through most of the game.
However, the Broncos fought back to within one point in the final seconds. With less than two seconds remaining, who else but Jayden Black was fouled. The senior found himself alone at the foul line with the chance to tie the game or earn an outright win at the end of regulation.
So how do you calmly and confidently drain two free throws in the final seconds of the state championship game… standing all alone at the free throw line with either glory or agony awaiting… with the weight of the world, the hopes of your community, and the heartbreak of your family weighing on your shoulders?
The answer to that question is what you do in a dark gym in an empty school in July, away from the crowds, away from the noise, and before the tragic events that changed your life forever.
Congratulations Jayden… and Taylor… and the Black/Bowring families… and the team and coaching staff… and the school… and the entire community… and to Bronco fans far and wide.
It was the perfect storybook ending to the season.