Hot Templars sink three solid wins, two at home
By Matt Harris
MANTI—The Templars are proving this week that there really is “no place like home.”
The Manti boys’ basketball team changed their fortunes in the Region 15 race after rattling off three straight wins last week against Richfield, 55-48, San Juan, 77-73, and Grand, 82-68, with their last two coming at home.
“In the second round of region we have been able to make some adjustments defensively as we see teams a second time,” Head Coach Devin Shakespear said.
The defensive effort is making a difference on the scoreboard as the pace of play looks as if they changed their armor. In the first four games of region play, Manti started 1-3, playing three of four on the road, and allowed an average of 77.5 points per game defensively.
During their current five-game winning streak, the Templars are holding opponents to 60.4 points per game, while their own offensive prowess has only fallen from 75.5 points per game to 70.6 points per game. Only San Juan has scored more than 70 points against Manti on their current streak.
The Templars snuffed out Richfield on their own court in a defensive slugfest, taking revenge on the Wildcats, who ended their nine-game winning streak to open the season. Senior Adam Huff led with 14 points, while junior Connor Christiansen had a rare double-digit night with 10.
Round two against the surprising San Juan Broncos did not disappoint.
The game stayed neck and neck in every minute, fueled by San Juan’s fast pace and Manti’s shooting. San Juan pushed a lead out to 49-41 midway through the third quarter when Bronco senior Seth Pugh nailed a 3-pointer on an offensive rebound. Senior Mason Thompson answered the call with a layup and a foul. The Templars then began to clamp down with full-court defense, and Kevin Clark made it a 4-point game, 49-45.
The Broncos pushed the lead out again, 54-47, but sophomore Grady Thompson went to work. As Manti started to take control in the post on offense, Grady became the go-to scorer down below.
Manti forced what seemed like countless turnovers in the last four minutes of the third quarter and went on an 8-0 run to take a 55-54 lead into the fourth.
San Juan regained the lead for much of the fourth quarter, leading 69-67 with under two minutes remaining when Grady found Travis Thomson on a pick-n-roll for a layup and foul. Thomson sank the free throw to take a 70-69 lead with just under a minute left. Thomson extended the lead to three with a fast break on the Templars’ next possession, and Grady spun off a defender in the post in the next possession to push the lead to five, virtually sealing the win.
Grady finished his spectacular night with a double-double of 32 points and 10 rebounds. Huff scored 14 while Thomson scored 11, including four points in the final minute.
“I would like…to focus on our unselfishness and ability that different guys can have great nights because of our ability to pass first,” Shakespear said. “Grady was special that night but often as a byproduct of a team who helps guys play their best.”
Manti averages, by Shakespear’s data, 17.1 assists per game. This stat becomes even more impressive when you consider most collegiate teams play eight minutes more regulation time and barely keep up with that number.
The Templars followed up the Friday’s victory with a dominant performance against Grand last Saturday in which they led 24-5 after the first quarter and cruised to victory. Mason Thompson lit the nets on fire with six 3’s en route to 20 points, while Huff scored 16, junior Kevin Clark scored 15, and Grady added 13.
The Templars face Emery at home on Jan. 30, completing a three-game region homestand before taking a break from Region 15 to host what should be an intriguing matchup against independent American Heritage, Feb. 1 at home.