Manti learning 3A is tough, is 1-2 in early season matches
By Matt Harris
BLANDING—The Manti boys’ basketball team quickly realized a harsh truth last weekend. They play in the toughest region in 3A.
After a 9-1 start to the season, the Templars skidded to a 1-2 start in region play. Manti was taken by surprise in a stellar offensive night by Richfield, 77-68, before bouncing back with a win against Grand, 75-63. In their Saturday game, Manti fell in heartbreaking fashion to San Juan in an offensive firework show, 96-94 in overtime, despite a magnanimous 31-point night from senior Adam Huff and seven 3-pointers from senior Mason Thompson.
“Our region is a gauntlet,” head coach Devin Shakespear said, “and coming off a week where we did not perform quite as well as we wanted, players are hopefully recognizing the importance of daily commitment and focus. You cannot have any distractions this time of year.”
Manti started off on the wrong foot against the pesky Broncos with a slew of ugly turnovers that San Juan converted into an early 9-3 lead, but the Templars righted the ship quickly and nailed three 3’s for a 13-10 lead. Both squads lit up the nets in the first quarter for a 22-22 tie, led by Thompson’s four first quarter 3s.
Although the Broncos keyed in on Mason in the second quarter, Huff could not be stopped, leading all scorers with 17 points in the first half as the Templars led 44-36 at halftime. Thompson had 15 points, and Manti had eight made 3s in the half.
San Juan owned the Templars in the paint in the third quarter, while Manti’s shooters cooled off, and the Broncos stole the lead in the third, 59-56.
Manti was down three points with ten seconds remaining, and Shakespear trusted the ball to Thompson’s hot hand. Thompson drove straight to the top of the key and missed a 3 pointer, but got fouled. In a critical moment, he swished all three of his free throws to send the game to overtime.
Despite maintaining a steady lead in overtime, San Juan got two quick layups off Manti miscues that led to a San Juan lead. Grady Thompson found Ben Cluff right under the basket unprotected for a game-tying layup, but it tragically rolled out as time expired, and Manti’s fate was sealed.
Throughout the game, Manti had a tough time getting any help from the officiating crew. In a game where both teams played with a near-equal level of physicality, Manti had roughly 20 team fouls to San Juan’s seven. Refs even negated a made-free throw from Thompson when his foot caught the line on his follow-through.
Shakespear had nothing to say about it, however. “I thought our team did a good job staying focused, and I was proud of their efforts.”
True to the coach’s words, Manti won’t be getting any breaks from here on out. Four of the six teams in Region 15 have records above .700. The Templars’ next home game is a rematch of the 2018, 3A championship game against South Sevier next Wednesday.