Buzzer-beater gives Broncos split at 2A-3A Central Utah Preview
by Rhett Sifford
There has been a bit of tumult to open the 2022-23 San Juan High School boys basketball season. The Broncos entered the season with five brand-new starters who are seeing their first consistent varsity time on the court.
Then, after just two games, new head coach Johnny Slavens resigned. Taking over just in time for San Juan’s trip to the 2A-3A Central Utah Boys Basketball Preview in Richfield this past weekend was Jeff Johnson.
It’s not exactly how anyone envisioned the first couple weeks of the new season would transpire, and it certainly wasn’t an enviable position for theteam.
But they all handled it with poise, and though it wasn’t nearly a perfect first trip as varsity players to the Sevier Valley Center, the team came home with an exciting win and some stories to tell.
Game one on December 2 was a tough one full of lessons for the Broncos. They were flat from the opening tip and never got out of the gate in the first half against a visibly motivated 3A Manti squad.
The Templars led 24-5 after one quarter and 45-11 at the break. But it was a different San Juan team that took the court in the second half.
The Broncos were more in sync and kept pace with Manti, trailing just 13-12 in the third quarter and winning the fourth 13-12.
The final was 70-36. San Juan shot just 30 percent from the floor. They were out-rebounded 35 to 16 and turned the ball over 27 times.
It goes without saying that nobody likes to lose like that. But it’s what you do after a loss that really counts.
Coach Johnson said the main thing he wanted to see in game two of the Preview was more energy, more varsity tempo to the game.
The players took that to heart and looked more like a varsity unit against the North Sevier Wolves on December 3, though it still was an uphill climb.
The first quarter was tight, with one team leading by two, then the other team tying the game throughout. The Broncos had the lead more than not in the opening frame.
But the Wolves began to take control in the second quarter, and by halftime had built a 23-16 lead. That deficit stayed for the majority of the second half.
San Juan rallied twice – once in the third quarter and again in the fourth – aided by the hot hand of RJ Dalley. The junior came off the bench to hit four three-pointers, tying the game twice.
The Broncos outscored North Sevier 17-15 in the third to pull to within five. In the fourth they rallied for a second time.
Fours were wild: wearing #14, Dalley’s three with 1:44 left tied the game at 44-44. After playing from behind for most of the game, that was the last time San Juan would trail.
With 1:07 to go, Collin Baker drove from the left wing straight through four North Sevier defenders for an easy layup, giving the Broncos their first lead since the first quarter.
With eight seconds left, it looked like San Juan’s comeback would fall short when the Wolves tied the game on free throws.
But the Broncos had one more miracle. Baker took the ensuing inbound pass, ran it into triple coverage in the lane, then kicked it out to a wide open Ian Johnson on the right wing.
Johnson drained his shot from beyond the arc as the buzzer sounded, giving San Juan a heart-stopping 49-46 win. It was an excellent way to cap what was ultimately a successful trip.
Baker led the team with 17 at the two-day event, Jerzy Nieves scored 16, and RJ Dalley and Anthony Done both had 14. Garrett Young scored eight, Dakota Long and Ian Johnson had seven each, and Brigham Nielson added two.
RJ Dalley led the Broncos with four threes in Richfield, all in the second half of the North Sevier game.
Nieves had three treys, and Johnson had the loudest one of the weekend.
On the boards Baker led with 15, Done pulled down seven, Nieves and Johnson had five.
There is still a long way to go for this Bronco squad, but the trip to the Sevier Valley Center and the tough loss to Manti seem to have set them on a good path headed into their third week of varsity play.
San Juan is set for another two-day trip this weekend. They take on 2-0 American Heritage in American Fork on Friday, December 9 at 7 p.m., then American Leadership Academy in Spanish Fork on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Listen to both games live on Redrock 92 Radio, with streaming video at pictureitpalmer.com. Pregame begins 30 minutes before tip time.