Lady Templars fall in over-time to Lady Rabbits, 53-49
By Matt Harris
DELTA—In a low-scoring 3A matchup, most would have expected a seven-point fourth quarter lead to be safe.
Instead, the Manti girls’ basketball team was left with a classic case of “close, but no cigar.”
The Lady Templars saw their late lead salted away by red-hot foul shooting by the Delta Rabbits, leading to an overtime period that saw them pull away for the 53-49 overtime win, snatching the Region 14 title right out of Manti’s clutches.
The de facto region championship game was an entertaining one from start to finish, and even Manti Coach Brennon Schweikart said he “couldn’t ask for a better championship game” shortly after the buzzer sounded.
“They hit some big time-free throws,” Schweikart said. “It was a great battle. We needed to do a better job of finishing the game with box outs and not as many turnovers.”
Manti’s regular season ended with a 13-6 overall record, a second straight winning season for the Lady Templars, and they went 10-2 in Region 14. As such, the Lady Templars earned a No. 9 ranking in the RPI, matching up with No. 8 Morgan for the first round of the 3A playoffs starting this week. If they manage to get past the Trojans, the No. 1 South Sevier Rams are waiting in the next round.
“We have a great opportunity to go further,” Schweikart said. “I like the path we are on. I am confident in our group and confident that if we get hot on offense, we will be really tough to beat, and we will be able to beat anyone.”
Manti was behind the proverbial eight-ball in the first quarter as Delta frustrated just about everything the Lady Templars could do on offense, forcing them into three offensive fouls in the quarter. On the other end, the Lady Rabbits were crashing the boards and used their length to propel to an 11-4 first quarter lead.
In the second quarter, it was all Manti. The Templars turned the Rabbits’ physicality against them to put them in an early bonus and sink several free throws to bring the game to a tie in the final minute. On Manti’s last possession, the Lady Templars went for the 3-pointer, but missed, yet aggressive rebounding gave them three chances to hit the last shot, and the final attempt by junior Breanne Wayman hit home to put the Lady Templars up 20-17 at halftime.
Coming out of halftime, Manti continued to pull away from the Rabbits with pin-point assists for easy layups and took a 32-25 lead in the fourth.
Then Delta began their comeback.
While the Lady Templars held a solid edge in making shots from the field, Delta leaned into drawing fouls and took advantage of their near-perfect free throw shooting. With Manti up by nine with 5:18 remaining, Delta took a 3-pointer that went straight up off the back iron and fell through, kindling the fire they needed.
After sophomore Heidi Jorgensen answered back with a 3, Delta nailed a put back and switched to a full-court defense to create a quick turnover and score again to bring it within five.
Manti went cold at the worst possible time, scoring only two points in the final 2:30 of regulation as Delta tied it up with a pair of free throws in the final five seconds after a costly turnover on Manti’s final possession.
In overtime, neither team could score for the first 3:30, but Delta finally got right back to the foul line and took a 46-44 lead only to have Jorgensen sink a contested 3-pointer to take the lead back.
Jorgensen again made a clutch shot with 40 seconds remaining on a falling-down layup for a two-point lead.
Delta responded with the play of the game as their star player, Jadee Dutson, drove for a layup and scored it with a foul, then sank the free throw for the 50-49 lead with less than 30 seconds left.
Jorgensen took another heroic attempt from the top of the key, but it was wide left, and a few more foul shots from Delta sealed Manti’s fate as the second-place team out of the region.
Jorgensen led all scorers with 15 points. Manti shot a game-killing 9 of 20 from the foul line while Delta hit 23 of 28.
With the first two rounds at home site for this year’s playoffs, Manti will be in Morgan this coming Saturday for the first round.