San Juan boys basketball opens season with 63-33 win over Grand, gears up for big year
Just over two weeks ago, most of the members of the San Juan High School boys basketball team were busy winning a football state championship.
This past Tuesday, November 23 they faced another tough challenge – transitioning from the football field to the basketball court for their season opener against Grand County in Blanding.
Like the football team opened the year, the Bronco boys basketball team had a bitter taste in their mouths after a tough loss in the postseason the previous year. But for the basketball team, it was a bit more acute.
Following an impressive win over local rival and higher-seeded Grand County in the 3A quarterfinals and a stunning upset of the #1-ranked Grantsville Cowboys in the semis, a 54-50 loss to Juab in the 3A state championship game deflated the Broncos.
Travis Black, beginning his fourth year as the San Juan head coach, talked about it during a preseason interview with Redrock 92 Radio.
“We lost a tough one to Juab back in February and it’s still on all of our minds,” he said. “We watched it last week as a team and it still stings.
“But we want to learn from that loss, make the adjustments and tweaks we need to make this year, and we’re ready to go.”
Although the Broncos lost two seniors to graduation, Nate Grover and Easton Bethea, they return a bevy of experience and an extremely deep bench.
“I feel like I have a lot of kids who would start for most 2A teams, so it’s nice to have that problem,” Black pointed out.
For the first week of practice (which really only amounted to three days) the team began working on “getting back into basketball shape,” according to Coach Black.
“Their legs are coming off the grass and astroturf and now we’re on the hardwood,” he explained. “So it’s just different muscles, different body, different movement, different soreness.”
As far as the scheme goes this season, Black said the team will play a lot more five-out on offense since they don’t have Grover’s big body in the middle.
They’ll attack the rim and run screens, but also still look for pick-and-rolls at the right moment. And they’ll look to post up Jayden Black, Cooper Black, Jace Palmer, and Bronsen Snyder when a mismatch presents itself.
“I think teams are going to have a hard time matching up against us because of the guard size and length we have, so it’ll be fun to see that and adjust that as the season goes on,” Black reasoned.
Despite a slow start and a few miscues along the way, the Broncos looked like they didn’t miss a beat in their first game of the year on November 23.
They doubled up the Red Devils in the first quarter 12-6, but really began to gain distance with a 20-6 second quarter to lead 32-12 at halftime. Although Grand rallied to win the third quarter 12-8, San Juan shut the door with a solid 23-9 fourth quarter and a 63-33 win.
Following the game, Coach Black said he was happy overall but thought it should have been a bit easier. “It really could have been over after the first quarter if we would have just made the easy ones,” he stated.
Black pointed out that the boys weren’t anticipating as well as they needed to when they were in the press, and the rotation wasn’t where he wanted it. “That’s a big part of our defense, leads to our offense, and we get energy off of that press,” he explained.
Though San Juan missed several layups and easy buckets, that’s understandable in the first game of the year after a long football season and no time to really get in basketball form. But Coach Black expects it will come as the season moves along.
The Broncos shot just 34 percent from the floor while Grand hit 36 percent of their shots on the night. They were much more impressive from beyond the arc, outshooting the Red Devils 27 percent to 18. They also beat Grand from the free throw line 57 percent to 40.
Ladd Ivins was the leading scorer in the win with 21 points. Jace Palmer scored ten. Cooper Black and Jensen Grover dropped in eight points apiece. Jayden Black scored seven.
Preston Imlay, Bronsen Snyder, and Collin Baker all got three apiece. Ivins hit an impressive five triples on the night and Palmer added a couple.
The Thanksgiving break further disrupted the Bronco transition into basketball, but they’ve been doing their best to get more shots in according to Coach Black.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “It was a great season with a football championship, but we have a lot of kids who didn’t get as many shots in as I would have liked over the fall.
“So we’ll try to catch up in a hurry and watching film will help us make the adjustments we need to make, where the rotations aren’t there and guys aren’t seeing what we want them to see.
“That’ll be a huge part of coming back from Thanksgiving and getting ready for Juab and Duchesne – two good teams that we need to be ready to play,” he concluded.
Indeed, the Broncos will have their hands full when they travel to Richfield this weekend for the Central Utah Boys Basketball Preview at the Sevier Valley Center.
It’s a rematch of the 3A state championship game when San Juan faces Juab at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. Then they’ll take on Duchesne Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Catch both games live on Redrock 92.7 FM with streaming video at pictureitpalmer.com.