State championship week for Buckaroo basketball teams

by Watler & Becky Bird
On a cold snowy night on February 20, the Monticello Buckaroo basketball team got off the bus in Ignacio, CO but stayed as cold as the weather outside, as they played the Ignacio Bobcats.
The Bucks fell behind early, losing the opening quarter 17-10. Things didn’t go much better in the second quarter, and Monticello trailed Ignacio 35-19 at the half.
The third quarter went much better for the Buckaroos, as they scored as many points in the quarter as they did the entire first half.
Unfortunately for Monticello, Ignacio matched their scoring to own a 54-38 lead after three quarters of play.
The fourth quarter was again owned by the Bobcats, who rolled to the 71-50 win.
Poor shooting was the theme of the night for the Bucks, who made 38.5 percent of all attempts and only connected on four of 23 shots from three for a 17.4 percent clip.
The Bucks also struggled with turnovers, allowing Ignacio to convert 23 Monticello turnovers into 32 points. The only place Monticello shined was in the paint, where the Bucks scored 30 of their 50 points.
Defensively, the Bucks allowed Ignacio to hit 53.8 percent of their shots and 50 percent from three.
Surprisingly, Monticello owned the rebounding edge, getting 29 boards to 28 snagged by the Bobcats. But maybe that’s not surprising because a good percentage of Ignacio’s shots found the bottom of the net.
Once again, Jake Freestone led all Buckaroo scorers with 19 points and one three-pointer. Freestone also added nine boards, three steals, and a block.
Lucas Hatch also hit double figures, dropping in ten points with one three. Hatch dished out eight assists to go with his four steals.
Adam Bunker and Weston Nebeker both scored nine points. Bunker made a three-pointer and added seven rebounds and three assists. Nebeker added three assists and two steals.
Ryan Bird rounded out the scoring with three points on a three to go with a steal and three rebounds.
Clay Goodwine pulled down four rebounds and made two steals.
With the regular season in the books, both Monticello teams are looking forward to doing well at the state tournament this week in Richfield.
The 1A tournament is a double-elimination tournament with a consolation bracket, so both teams will at least play two games with a chance to play Wednesday through Saturday.
Girls preview
Entering the tournament, the Lady Bucks are in the bottom bracket as the #3 team from Region 19 with a 12-8 overall record.
Monticello plays the 16-5 Piute Thunderbirds, who represent Region 20 as its #2 team, on Wednesday, February 28 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sevier Valley Center.
These two teams have some recent history. In fact, the Bucks played Piute on November 18 at the 1A Preview.
If not for a slow start that saw the Bucks fall behind in the first quarter by nine, the Lady Bucks would have had a chance because they played with the Thunderbirds after that initial period before eventually falling 48-38.
Both teams played Panguitch this season and Piute lost both of its games against the Bobcats by three and four points.
Monticello lost its first game of the season to Panguitch.
If the Lady Bucks can score the ball, they will be fine. Monticello is led by Junior Tymbr Black, who is averaging 10.9 PPG, 6.1 Reb., and 1.2 Asst.
Senior Ashley Adair comes into the tournament averaging 6.8 PPG, 2.2 Reb., and 1.6 Asst.
She is followed by senior Alyssa Reeve, who is putting up 5.5 PPG, 3.4 Reb.
Junior Tristen Esplin is averaging 5.3 PPG, 3.9 Reb., and 2.8 Asst.
The Lady Bucks also hope to get contributions from sophomore Megan Black (3.3 PPG, 4.4 Reb.), junior Journey Baird (2.8 PPG, 2.5 Reb.), senior Ericka Hill (2.7 PPG, 2.9 Reb.), and sophomore Rianna Shumway (2.0 PPG).
The top ladies 1A teams in the tournament appear to be Panguitch, Piute, Milford, Tabiona and Wayne. Monticello has defeated Tabiona twice and Wayne once, so the Lady Bucks can make some noise if they play well.
Boys preview
The Monticello boys come into the state tournament as the #1 seed from Region 19 in the upper bracket with a 12-8 record. They will play the Intermountain Christian (IC) Lions (16-9), who are the #4 team from Region 22, on Wednesday February 28 at 10 a.m. at Richfield High School.
The Lions defeated Telos 71-31 in a play-in game last Friday to make it into the tournament field. Monticello and IC did not meet this season but have some common opponents. Monticello beat Tabiona by six in Tabiona. IC split its series with Tabiona, with the road team taking each of those meetings.
Monticello won both its games against Green River, and IC beat Green River in December. Monticello dropped its only contest with 2A Altamont, and IC beat the Longhorns after Christmas.
Again, much like the girls, if the boys can shoot well, especially from distance, they have a shot to do well in the tournament.
They also need to defend well to have a chance to go deep into the bracket.
The Bucks are led by seniors Jake Freestone (18.7 PPG, 1.4 3FG, 8.8 Reb.) and Ryan Bird (13.8 PPG, 2.4 3FG, 3.4 Reb., 2.1 Asst.).
They are followed closely by juniors Lucas Hatch (13.6 PPG, 1.4 3FG, 6.0 Reb., and 4.2 Asst.), Weston Nebeker (10.8 PPG, 3.2 Reb., 3.5 Asst.), and Adam Bunker (6.4 PPG, 4.1 Reb.).
The team also needs solid bench play from senior Clay Goodwine (2.2 PPG, 1.9 Reb., 1.0 Asst.) as well as junior Britton Brewer, Race Young, and even Dylan Bird.
The top 1A teams in the tournament appear to be Rich, Panguitch, Valley, Manila, and Bryce Valley, but every year upsets happen.
In our opinion, if Monticello can play with toughness and poise, they can play well into Saturday.

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