by Walter & Becky Bird
The Monticello High School boys basketball team (12-8) kicked off the 1A state basketball tournament on February 28, when they took on the Intermountain Christian Lions (15-9) at the Richfield High School gym.
Paced by defense, Monticello jumped out to a big first quarter lead and coasted to a 31-19 halftime lead. The second half was much of the same as the Bucks took their first, first-game tourney win in three years, by the score of 62-38.
Monticello was led by Jake Freestone’s 21 points.
Lucas Hatch had a solid game, putting in 17 points, followed by Ryan Bird’s eleven points. Adam Bunker and Weston Nebeker had eight and four respectively.
With the win, the Bucks earned the opportunity to play the 20-3 Manila Mustangs in the second round of the tournament.
The Bucks waited roughly 32 hours to face a big and physical Manila team on Thursday in the Sevier Valley Center.
Manila had defeated the Milford Tigers the morning before by twelve points.
Unlike the game before, the Bucks fell behind early – trailing 15-11 after one period. Monticello was able to win the next quarter by a point but still trailed by the score of 31-28 at the half.
The Bucks matched the Mustangs in the third quarter, trailing 44-41 going into the final period.
That’s when the Bucks got ice cold, scoring only three points in the last period to drop the game 56-44.
The stat of the game was the disparity at the free throw line. Manila took 27 trips to the line, converting 14 free-throws. Monticello had five total attempts, making three.
Read into that what you want; our take is that Monticello was just not aggressive enough to test the Mustang defense and get to the line.
Once again, Jake Freestone paced the Bucks, dropping in twelve points and one triple. Ryan Bird scored eleven points, dropping in three three-point shots. Weston Nebeker also had eleven points with one trey.
Adam Bunker tossed in seven points with one triple. Lucas Hatch scored his lone bucket on a three-point shot.
With the loss, Monticello dropped out of the championship bracket and would face the 20-5 Wendover Wildcats, who lost by six to Bryce Valley, the next afternoon. Another loss and Monticello would be going home.
With their backs against the wall, Monticello jumped out to a 17-14 first quarter lead. However, that was followed by a poor quarter that saw the Bucks go into half down by three at 34-31.
Fortunately, the Bucks responded taking the lead after three quarters and the ultimate 72-66 win.
With the win, the Bucks earned the opportunity to play Saturday with the chance to finish in fifth place, but they would have to defeat the 16-8 Valley Buffaloes to do so.
Sadly, Monticello came out looking tired and flat and lost every quarter in the game except the third quarter to ultimately drop the game 47-39.
Monticello made three more field goals than Valley but was outshot at the line, making only three of eight attempts, while Valley converted 18 of 21 attempts.
The loss cost the Bucks fifth place, and they ended the tourney in seventh place with an overall season record of 14-10 – with only four losses coming to 1A teams.
Only four Bucks scored in the season finale. Jake Freestone made 17 points and two threes, followed by Weston Nebeker with nine points. Lucas Hatch scored seven points with one triple, and Ryan Bird had six points with a trey.
Despite the boy’s disappointment, this team made steady improvement from a poor showing at the 1A Preview to a Region 19 title and seventh place state finish. Therefore, it’s our opinion that this was a very successful season for the players and coaches Esplin, Keyes and Christiansen.
The Monticello girls (12-8) tipped off their 1A state tournament when they played the Piute Thunderbirds (17-5) at the Sevier Valley Center.
The Lady Bucks looked awesome early, as they jumped out to a 16-11 first quarter lead. However, this great start was followed by a paltry five-point quarter that saw them trail at the half 26-21.
The rest of the game was a back and forth battle with the Lady Bucks only losing two net points in the third and fourth quarters, but they couldn’t overcome the poor second quarter and dropped the contest 43-36.
Tymbr Black led Monticello with 14 points. Ericka Hill scored eight and Brooklyn Holt tossed in four points. Journey Baird and Tristen Esplin ended up with three points each and Megan Black and Alyssa Reeve added two points apiece.
The loss dropped the Ladys into the consolation bracket of the tournament and set up another meeting with Region 19 member Whitehorse the next day at 1 p.m. at Richfield High School.
Monticello was comfortable facing a familiar team and raced to 11-6 first quarter lead. The Ladys stretched that to a 26-16 halftime lead.
In the second half, Monticello led by as many as 21 points and ended up taking the 56-38 win to stay alive in the consolation bracket of the tournament.
The Lady Bucks were paced by Brooklyn Holt and Ericka Hill who had nice games of twelve and ten points each.
Tymbr Black and Megan Black scored eight points each and Ashley Adair six points, including one three-point basket.
Alyssa Reeve, Journey Baird, and Tristen Esplin round out the scoring with four apiece.
With the win against Whitehorse, the Lady Bucks drew the Region 20 Valley Buffaloes (12-11), for a third-round consolation game on Friday.
As has been the tale much of the year, a poor quarter, the first quarter this game, doomed the Ladys as they fell behind early 16-4.
In a show of great moxie, the Ladys took the second quarter by one point to trail 27-16 at the half.
Valley took the third quarter by a bucket to lead 44-31 going into the final period. That’s when the Lady Bucks put the fear in the Buffaloes, reeling off an 18-9 fourth quarter advantage, but the effort fell just short as Monticello lost 53-49.
With the loss, the Bucks’ tourney and season ended with a 13-10 record.
Much like the boys team, the Ladys had a rough start, but they showed improvement through-out the season, especially in wins against Wayne, who won the Region 19 title and finished seventh at state, and Tabiona, who played well at state.
Coaches Black, Motes and Getter did a nice job with this group and have a lot of young talent to drive them forward in the years to come.
As an aside, Alyssa Reeve was honored as a member of the 2018 1A Academic All-state Basketball Team. What a great accomplishment! Congratulations Alyssa!