San Juan High School boys basketball team set for state quarterfinal rematch with Grand County Thursday, Feb. 25
A month ago, the San Juan High School boys basketball team was 9-6 on the year and ranked eighth in the 3A RPI standings heading into the final seven games of the regular season.
The Broncos, who had struggled through injury and illness for the first two-thirds of the season, were just getting back to full strength and were poised to finish strong.
In the last four weeks San Juan came together as a team, peaking at just the right time to produce their best basketball of the year.
They won six of those seven games to close out the regular season, including the last four in a row over tough Region 12 opponents Grand, Richfield, and Carbon.
The Broncos ended the regular season 15-7 overall and jumped up three places in the standings to fifth, earning a first-round bye in the state tournament this past week.
That set them up for a second-round date with Summit Academy in Blanding on Friday, February 19. The winner would head to Richfield for the state quarterfinals while the loser would go home for the season.
From the opening tip, San Juan had their hands full with the Bears, or at least one Bear – senior Zack Englebright. He was the main offensive weapon for Summit, helping the Bears grab an early lead over San Juan with all nine of their first-quarter points.
But the Broncos were never down by more than three in the frame and were able to rally to take a 12-9 lead by the time the buzzer sounded.
Other Summit Academy players finally began to help Englebright out, and the Bears scored 10 points in the second quarter to keep the game close.
With San Juan leading 20-19 with 2:23 remaining in the half, Bronco Jayden Black drained a straightaway three to put the home team up 23-19.
That was the final bucket of the first half, and when Cooper Black knocked down another three 30 seconds into the third quarter, San Juan had truly established momentum.
The Broncos went on to outscore Summit Academy 18-13 in the quarter to take a 41-32 lead into the final period of play.
The Bears continued to battle in the fourth quarter, but San Juan outlasted them easily, heating up for 27 points to close out a 68-48 win.
The San Juan scoring attack was led by Nate Grover, who got 15 points on the night. Jayden Black had an impressive game with 12 points off the bench for San Juan, matching Ladd Ivins’ total in the game.
Cooper Black scored 11 points for the Broncos, Preston Imlay added seven, Jace Palmer got six, and Jensen Grover rounded out the scoring with five points.
San Juan outshot Summit Academy 55 percent to 38 percent on the night. The Broncos were an impressive seven of 14 from beyond the three-point arc and 68 percent from the free throw line. They also outrebounded the Bears 31 to 21.
The win was San Juan’s fifth in a row and they’re riding high momentum into the 3A state quarterfinals where, in a real twist of fate, they’ll meet local rival Grand County for the third time this season.
The teams split their two regular season matchups in an exciting home-and-home series in late January. The Broncos won first in Blanding January 27, and the Red Devils evened the series two nights later in Moab.
So, Thursday’s ballgame on neutral ground at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield will decide not only who’s tops among southeastern Utah teams, but who will advance to likely to face the #1 Grantsville Cowboys in the semifinals.
The San Juan vs. Grand showdown tips at 9:30 a.m. this Thursday, February 25. Redrock 92.7 FM will feature complete live coverage of all the San Juan and Grand County games throughout the weekend.
The winner of Thursday’s game will play in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday night while the loser drops to the fifth-place bracket and will play at noon Friday.
On Saturday, the fifth-place game is set for 11:30 a.m., the third-place game tips at 2:30 p.m., and the 2021 3A championship game is set for 6:45 p.m.
With their 11th-place ranking in the final 3A RPI standings, the San Juan girls basketball team earned a first-round bye in the state tournament this past week but faced a long road trip to Salt Lake City to take on #6 Judge Memorial in the second round on Saturday, February 20.
The Lady Broncos had their hands full from the opening tip, managing only six points in the first quarter while Judge put up 17.
San Juan rallied to score 13 in the second quarter, but the Lady Bulldogs increased their lead by two when they scored 15 in the frame.
Down 34-19 heading into the third quarter, the Lady Broncos battled hard, but Judge Memorial was too much to handle.
The Lady Bulldogs outscored San Juan 14-9 in the quarter to increase their lead to 48-28. San Juan won the final frame 12-9, but Judge had gotten plenty of distance to close out the game 55-40.
Emilie Palmer led the way for the Lady Broncos with 15 points in the game. Sadie Brown scored 10; Quiana Dishface added nine; Serina Yanito, Heyleigh Warren, and Makaeli Begaye all got two apiece; and Kaitlynne Perkins scored one point.
San Juan finishes the year with a 6-15 overall record. They were 2-8 in Region 12 play. In the next couple weeks, we’ll have a conversation with head coach Laura Stearns, take a look at final season stats, and recap the girls’ season.