San Juan High School boys basketball splits games at Central Utah Preview in Richfield

After a two-week delay due to COVID-19 restrictions, the San Juan High School boys basketball team finally hit the court to open the 2020-21 season at the Central Utah Boys Basketball Preview in Richfield Friday and Saturday, December 4-5.

Though the players all possess a great deal of game experience together and Bronco Head Coach Travis Black has coached them for a number of years, the two games over the weekend were their first together as high school varsity players.

San Juan opened the year at the Sevier Valley Center on Friday against the number two team in 2A boys basketball, North Summit. The Braves were obviously prepared and looking to make a point against the Broncos, jumping out to a quick lead they held for the majority of the game.

San Juan fell behind 14-7 in the second quarter before they were able to rally and finally take their first lead of the game 15-14 on a Jensen Grover bucket midway through the quarter. But North Summit battled back to regain the lead 25-20 at halftime.

The teams exchanged baskets in the third quarter, and the Broncos trailed by just four headed into the final quarter. But the Braves established momentum and built a 12-point lead over the course of the first three minutes.

Then, down 47-35 with just five minutes left in the game, San Juan put together an impressive comeback. The Bronco defense, which played well all game, created a flurry of turnovers that gave San Juan shooters a chance to heat up.

Jensen Grover hit three three-pointers, Ladd Ivins scored two more, and San Juan hit a bevy of foul shots to outscore the Braves 27-7 down the stretch and storm back for a 62-54 win.

Grover scored ten points in the final five minutes and led San Juan scoring with 17 on the day. Ivins scored 15 for the Broncos, Cooper Black had 13, and Nate Grover collected ten. Jace Palmer added a couple and Jayden Black and Easton Bethea scored three and two respectively off the bench.

The Broncos shot just 21 of 58 from the floor for 36 percent and seven of 23 from beyond the arc for 30 percent, but they were a strong 13 of 17 for 77 percent.

Game two of the Preview on Saturday was a tough draw for San Juan, but a welcome challenge in the first weekend of the season against the 3A defending state champion Manti Templars.

Just like game one the previous day, San Juan spotted their opponents a first-quarter lead. They fell behind by as much as 14 in the first frame but rallied to make it 18-16 late.

As the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter, a questionable foul against Ivins gave the Templars three foul shots, which third-year starter Grady Thompson drained. It was a key moment in the game.

Though San Juan battled to tie in the second quarter, they were never able to take the lead. Manti went on a 27-10 run in the second quarter to distance the Broncos, leading 48-35 at the half.

Manti continued to build their lead to start the second half, and held a 21-point lead late in the third quarter before San Juan was able to mount another comeback.

But this time the Broncos had spotted their opponents too many points. Though they outscored the Templars 23-15 in the fourth quarter, the rally fell short as the defending champs came out on top 89-79.

Manti was nearly unbeatable from the floor in the win, shooting 63 percent (17 for 27) in the first half and 53 percent on the day. They drained an amazing 13 three-pointers, five of which came from Austin Cox who was five of seven from long range.

Ivins was impressive for the Broncos in the loss, scoring a game-high 25 points. Cooper Black added 18, Jensen Grover got 14, and Jayden Black collected ten off the bench. Jace Palmer scored nine and Nate Grover got three to round out the San Juan scoring.

Despite the loss, the Broncos were better statistically against the Templars than against the Braves. They were 25 of 57 from the floor for 44 percent, they hit eight of 19 three-point attempts for 42 percent, and they were 21 of 29 from the charity stripe for 72 percent.

San Juan head coach Travis Black said he was “content” looking back at the weekend but knows his team can be better. “We’re learning, we’re growing, we know the potential we have,” he said. “By the time we hit our first region game [against Grand on January 8] we want to be firing on all cylinders.”

The main lessons the Broncos take from the Preview is that they are always in the game no matter how far down they are but they can’t consistently allow their opponents to jump out to a lead.

“We need to play with the same intensity the first five minutes as we’ve played for the last five minutes,” Black explained.

San Juan has a few days to get ready for the Wasatch Front Invitational Thursday through Saturday. They’ll play American Heritage, APA West Valley, Draper APA, and Maeser Prep at various locations along I-15 at the event.

Black said one of the main goals in practice this week is to establish more of a post presence before their next game. They’ll work on getting the ball down low for a scoring opportunity or drawing a double team so they can kick it out for a shot.

The other is stopping man-to-man dribble penetration on defense. Coach Black said the boys weren’t moving their feet quickly enough in Richfield and were allowing their opponents to go to the hole too often.

The Broncos tip off the Wasatch Front Invite at 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 10 in American Fork against American Heritage.

Redrock 92 will feature complete coverage of the weekend beginning at 6:30 Thursday and running through Saturday’s matchup with Maeser Prep. You can catch the broadcasts on 92.7 FM and online with video at PictureItPalmer.com.

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