San Juan basketball teams conclude season and look to the future
When the 2019-2020 basketball season began back in November, both the San Juan High School boys and girls teams had some goals in sight.
A common goal for both teams was to achieve something other recent Bronco teams hadn’t – win their state play-in games and advance to the 3A state quarterfinals.
Both teams indeed accomplished that goal and had hopes to make deep runs in the state tournament. Although it wasn’t in the cards this year, both teams represented Blanding honorably at Salt Lake Community College this past weekend, Thursday and Friday, February 20 and 21.
It had been five years since the boys played in the state quarterfinals, and it was just their third appearance since 2003. They faced one of their toughest opponents of the season in Judge Memorial on Thursday, February 20.
Against the Bulldogs, the Broncos knew they would have to put together their best game of the year. They knew they would have to limit their turnovers and dictate the play all game long.
Although they got strong shooting from Shaw Nielson, who hit eight three-pointers on the night, and although they were strong in the paint, head coach Travis Black said it was turnovers that hurt the Broncos more than anything.
It looked very promising early. San Juan jumped out to a 23-18 lead by the end of the opening quarter. But they struggled in the second, giving up the lead when Judge outscored them 19-7 in the frame.
Down by seven to start the second half, the Broncos came out of the locker room battling. They kept pace with the Bulldogs and were right in the game, trailing 54-46 headed into the fourth quarter.
Again San Juan showed resiliency and fought to outscore Judge 17-12 in the final eight minutes of the game. But when the horn sounded and the dust settled, the Broncos found themselves three points short of the Bulldogs 66-63.
It was truly a heartbreaker. Coach Black pointed out that San Juan had poured everything they had into scouting and preparing for the quarterfinal game. Though the loss didn’t eliminate them from the tournament, the emotional and mental toll was great.
They were flat in their fifth-place semifinal matchup with Grantsville the following day, Friday, February 21. Again, the Broncos had the lead after one period of play, but they were outscored in every other quarter, dropping the contest by 17, 60-43.
Seniors Shaw Nielson and Jaxon Torgerson led the scoring attack for San Juan at the tournament with 32 points apiece. Nielson hit 10 three-pointers on the weekend and Torgerson got five.
Randall Flavel scored 24 points in the two games, Nate Grover got 11, and Ryan Imlay scored four. Flavel was tops in the rebounding department for the Broncos with 18 boards. Torgerson grabbed 11 in the two games, Imlay had nine, and Grover five.
San Juan ends the year with a 16-8 record, their best in nine seasons. Among the seniors, Torgerson was the top scorer for the Broncos on the year with 387 points (16.1 per game). He hit 42 three-pointers and collected 109 rebounds, 91 assists, and 46 steals.
Flavel scored 333 points on the season (13.9 PPG). He grabbed a team-high 191 rebounds and added 38 assists and 18 steals. Flavel hit two three-pointers this season.
Nielson was next in line with 234 points in 2019-20 (9.8 PPG). He was the best outside shooter for the Broncos with 57 threes on the year. He collected 41 rebounds, 33 assists, and 24 steals.
Imlay scored 166 points for San Juan this season (6.9 PPG). He hit six threes and grabbed an impressive 166 rebounds. His 110 assists were the most for the Broncos, and he added 36 steals.
Elijah Lee scored 148 points this year (6.2 PPG). He hit a very nice 44 threes and got 42 rebounds, 20 assists, and 15 steals.
Coach Black said he will truly miss coaching the group of young men he had this year, and even though the season didn’t end as the team hoped, it was still a great success.
“To get the play-in game monkey off our back was a big deal,” he stated. “I think the boys grew as individuals and became better young men. That’s always a goal as a coaching staff.”
One of the biggest areas of growth on the court throughout the year was on the defensive side of the ball according to Black. The boys’ maturity level was also important this season.
“I only had two technicals all year from my players,” he explained. “That’s a big thing – getting the boys to understand the respect they need to have for other players, officials, and fans.”
As the team moves forward, Coach Black said his goal will be to continue building the San Juan High School basketball program and establish a culture of the team contending in the state tournament every year.
However, he stressed that big numbers in the win column aren’t the main goal. “We definitely want to teach resiliency to the kids,” stated Black. “We want to learn more from the losses than we learn from the wins.”
If this year is any indication, the Broncos are on the right track. Congratulations to the entire coaching staff and all the San Juan boys basketball players on an excellent 2019-2020 season.
It was the San Juan girls’ fourth trip into the state quarterfinals in the last 14 years when they faced the #3 Grantsville Lady Bulldogs on Thursday, February 20 at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC).
Though they were heavy underdogs, they were riding the emotional high of their upset win over #6 Emery in the first round of the state tournament the previous weekend.
Unfortunately on this night, the Lady Broncos struggled with the Grantsville press, trailed from start to finish, and dropped the contest 49-35.
Like the boys, the San Juan girls were relegated to the fifth-place consolation bracket, and needed a solid effort to put a positive bookend on the season. They got it against the #7 Morgan Lady Trojans.
Through the first quarter of their fifth-place semifinal matchup, San Juan built a 17-13 lead over Morgan. But a tough second allowed the Lady Trojans to catch up, and they took a 23-22 lead into the halftime break.
The teams battled to an 11-11 tie in the third frame, but Morgan outscored San Juan by four in the fourth quarter to end the Lady Bronco season 53-48.
Second-year San Juan head coach Laura Stearns reported that her team played a much better game against Morgan than they did Grantsville, but the Lady Broncos just found themselves on the losing end at the final buzzer.
She added that experiencing the state tournament atmosphere at SLCC was important for her team.
Tasiah Little was the top scorer for San Juan at the tourney with 20 points. Madison Palmer scored 18 for the Lady Broncos, Sadie Brown got 13, Quinna Dishface 12, Syannah Ketchum nine, Emilie Palmer eight, Brittany Grover two, and Tyler Shumway one.
Ketchum hit three three-pointers in the two games. Little, Dishface, and Madison Palmer all had one apeice. Madison was impressive on the boards for San Juan, grabbing 12 rebounds.
Little got nine, Dishface and Emilie eight, Brown seven, Grover six, Ketchum five, and Shumway got two.
San Juan finishes the season with a 12-11 overall record. They outscored their opponents this year 1,256-1,071. Leading scorer Little got 315 points on the season (15.8 per game).
Madison scored 234 (11.7 PPG), Ketchum got 144 (7.2 PPG), Brown 105 (5.3), Grover 87 (4.1), Dishface 73 (3.6), Shumway 51 (2.5), and Emilie 42 (3.0).
Ketchum was the Lady Broncos’ best outside shooter in 2019-20 with 38 threes. Little got 34, Madison 12, Dishface four, Emilie two, and Brown and Shumway hit one apiece.
Madison led the team in rebounding this season with 210 boards. Little was next with 108, Brown had 105, Grover 54, Shumway 49, Dishface 44, Ketchum 24, and Emilie got 23.
Coach Stearns said it was a joy to coach the girls this year. “They wanted to be there, and it was great to see smiles and laughs out on the court,” she explained. “It was great to see a group that was enjoying the sport and wasn’t just there because they had to be.”
“To have an atmosphere where the girls love to come to practice and games and cheer one another on is something great to help build a program,” stated Stearns.
“There was lots of teamwork, camaraderie, and upperclassmen helping underclassmen,” she continued.
Stearns said the attitude and drive she saw from her players this year is exactly what she looks for in a basketball team and that she’s excited to continue leading the Lady Broncos into the future.
Exciting things are happening in San Juan High School girls basketball. Congratulations to the coaching staff and the players on an outstanding 2019-2020 season.