Monticello basketball gets into full swing of things

by Walter & Becky Bird
Boys basketball
The Monticello boys kicked off their 2018-19 season at home when they hosted the 3-0 Grand Red Devils on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
The first game of the season is always an unknown – especially at home when the nerves and excitement are at a very high level for the players and fans.
Monticello started fairly strong against Grand but they trailed the Red Devils 14-9 after the first quarter. The second quarter saw the Bucks try to chip into the Grand lead but they remained behind 32-24 after one half of play.
The third quarter began as well as possible for the Bucks, as the home team went on a 19-2 run to start the second half to seize a 43-40 lead. However, by the end of the quarter, the Red Devils had regained the lead 45-42.
The final quarter saw the Bucks get chances to win the game but missed free throws and untimely turnovers cost them the opening game of the season. They fell 64-62.
Monticello struggled at times from the field, only converting 42 percent of shot attempts, but hit an excellent 56 percent of threes – converting on 9/16 attempts. The team’s 56 percent free-throw shooting was a key component of the loss.
Lucas Hatch led the Bucks in scoring with a career-high 26 points, including four treys. Adam Bunker scored 16 and also hit four threes on the night.
Spencer Knudsen, coming off a knee surgery that deprived him of the 2017-2018 season, poured in 12 points. Weston Nebeker added five points and Taylor Torgerson, a recent transfer from Moab, hit a three for his only points of the game.
The loss was disappointing, but the Bucks showed some promise against the fourth-ranked team in 3A.
Without much time to sulk, the boys practiced Wednesday and Thursday before heading to Richfield to play in the 1A Preview against Piute (0-3) Friday and Intermountain Christian (2-2) on Saturday, Dec. 9.
Against Piute, the Bucks played a tremendous first half, hitting 70 percent of their shot attempts while rolling to a 38-17 halftime lead and holding Piute to 42 percent shooting.
The second half was a much different tale, as the Bucks lost the half 26-22. But the first half play was enough for the Bucks to get the first win of the season, 60-45.
Lucas Hatch was again the top point man with 21 points and two three-point shots. Taylor Torgerson had a great game with 13 points and two treys. Adam Bunker scored 10 points with a three-point basket.
Spencer Knudsen ended the game with eight points and Weston Nebeker had four points. Dylan Bird and Britton Brewer each made a bucket in the win.
Saturday morning against the Intermountain Christian Eagles (ICS), the Bucks started the game off well, taking the quarter 12-10. However, Buck fortunes turned when ICS made a barrage of threes and free throws to build a 29-20 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Bucks played ICS nearly even, only losing the third and fourth quarters 16-14 and 14-12 to drop the game by the final score of 59-46.
Statistically, the Bucks looked poor on paper. The team only hit 39 percent of their shots while allowing ICS to shoot 50 percent. Monticello only converted 7/21 foul shots for a 42 percent clip.
The stat that really stands out is the 20 fouls committed by Monticello compared to 12 by ICS. The Eagles spent nearly the entire second quarter in the bonus and built their halftime lead from the foul line.
Adam Bunker led Monticello in scoring with 14 points. He was also three of seven from beyond the arc. Lucas Hatch and Spencer Knudsen each scored 10 points with Hatch, making two triples.
Taylor Torgerson added five points with one three-pointer. Hyrum Johnson and Britton Brewer rounded out the scoring with a bucket each.
The Bucks (1-2) are back in action this weekend when they travel to Dove Creek to play in the Dove Creek Tournament. The Bucks open the tourney against Norwood, CO on Friday and a team to be determined on Saturday. Next week, MHS plays Grand in Moab and San Juan at home. All of those games will be broadcast live on 103.9 KAAJ-LP.
Girls basketball
On Tuesday, Dec. 4, the Lady Bucks traveled to Cortez to play the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers. Coming into the game, Monticello was 1-2 after getting their first win against Grand. Cortez was 2-1.
The game began slowly with both teams struggling to find offense. Early in the first quarter, Monticello lost a key player when Megan Black left the game with a concussion. Without Black, the Lady Bucks still held an 8-6 lead when the quarter came to an end.
The second quarter saw the Panthers pounce on Monticello 22-8 to take a commanding 28-14 lead into the half.
In the third, Monticello kept Cortez in check offensively, but could only manage four points of their own to trail 36-18 going into the fourth quarter.
That quarter would not be any kinder to Monticello, as Cortez tripled up the Lady Bucks 18-6 to roll to a 54-24 final.
Offensively, Monticello struggled, only hitting 28 percent of their shots. The team was also hampered by 38 turnovers. Brooklyn Holt led the team with eight points. Rianna Shumway had seven points and Journey Baird five. Shumway hit the only three of the game.
Defensively, the Lady Bucks played fairly well. They held the Panthers to a 28 percent field goal percentage, but gave up 34 points in the paint.
The ladies had some time to regroup, as they didn’t play again until Friday, December 7 at home against the Dove Creek Bulldogs (3-1).
Monticello jumped on the Bulldogs early, building a 14-6 lead after the first period. The ladies kept it going in the second period, building a 25-16 lead at the half.
The third frame also belonged to Monticello, as the Lady Bucks outscored Dove Creek 13-8 to lead 38-24 going into the final quarter. In the fourth, the Bulldogs exploded for a game-high 20 points to dig into the Monticello lead but ultimately succumbed to the Lady Bucks 56-44.
Monticello shot better in the game, hitting 41 percent of their shots. The team also hit 50 percent of threes taken, converting on two of them.
Tristen Esplin was the top scorer on the night, with 14 points and one three. Tymbr Black scored 11 points with a three and added five assists.
Journey Baird had a strong game, tossing in nine points. Rianna Shumway scored six points and set up her teammates well with five assists.
Defensively, the Lady Bucks held the Bulldogs to 36 percent shooting. They also pressured Dove Creek into 27 turnovers, from which the Lady Bucks converted 28 points.
On Tuesday, Dec. 11 the Lady Bucks visited Grand with an eye on sweeping the season series with the Red Devils. MHS beat Grand two weeks ago in Monticello, 56-38.
The girls will also host Bayfield at home on Saturday, Dec. 15.
Coach honored
Monticello cross country Coach Jeff Hunt was recently awarded the U.S. Track and Field – Cross Country Coaches Association Coach of the Year Award for the state of Utah and was nominated for the National Coach of the Year Award.
Coach Hunt’s teams have claimed six of the last eight 1A cross country titles, including an impressive four-peat from 2011-2014. Coach Hunt is tied for fourth overall amongst Utah High School Boy Cross Country Coaches all-time with his six titles. Congratulations, Jeff!

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