MT. PLEASANT — The North Sanpete boys basketball team suffered an early end to its season with a stunning upset loss to American Leadership Academy, 66-61, last Saturday in the second round of the UHSAA 3A state championship tournament.
American Leadership Academy secured the biggest upset by seeding in the three-year history of RPI seeding in the 3A state tournament, No. 18 over No. 2. It will be the lowest-seeded team ever to make the 3A quarterfinals in that time.
Coach Bill Pollock described his initial feeling as “shock” when the buzzer sounded on the Hawks’ season-ending loss.
“I just felt bad for the kids,” Pollock said. “Behind closed doors, I knew what kind of work they had done to get to where they were at. To have it end the way it ended, it certainly wasn’t what we expected, nor what we wanted.”
The Eagles played significantly better than they had all season long, surprising the home crowd with a combination of smooth and surgical offensive possessions paired with defensive prowess inside and out, forcing a number of steals at the perimeter for easy fast break points.
“I was not surprised by the level of play that ALA came with,” Pollock said. “They’ve got some good kids, and this time of year, it all comes down to who has the best weekend.”
The Hawks, on the other hand, played hard but suffered through a cold night shooting. They were hampered even further by an apparent knee injury that Landon Bowles was dealing with.
The star senior was in a knee brace and spent a great deal of the game on the bench. Despite choosing to play, Bowles’ explosiveness was kept in check, and his impact on the score was not what it usually was throughout the season.
The Hawks shot 37 percent from the field as a team. Senior Ty Morley led the team with 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Bowles scored 13 points, most of those points coming at the free throw line where he hit 7-of-10.
North Sanpete played the Eagles close for most of the game. The game saw several lead changes through the first three quarters of action. By the end of the third quarter, however, American Leadership Academy held a 49-44 lead.
The Hawks played with desperation in the fourth quarter and repeatedly brought the score within one possession. However, the Eagles answered back every single time without fail and maintained the distance on the scoreboard.
In the final minute of the game, with the Hawks down by four, Bowles and Allan started the possession. Getting the ball just past halfcourt, Bowles ran into a trap defense and stumbled just enough at point-blank range from a referee to draw a crushing traveling call, turning it back over to American Leadership Academy to seal the win.
The Hawks got off to a good start with a 5-0 run to begin the game until American Leadership Acadmey answered back with a 5-0 run of its own. After a layup by the Hawks, American Leadership Academy turned the heat up from the perimeter with back-to-back 3-pointers to take an 11-7 lead.
After a no-look pass to the center for a layup to give the Eagles a seven-point lead, North Sanpete stormed back with an 11-2 run to take the lead, only for American Leadership Academy to take it back with a 3-pointer. The teams fought to a 28-28 draw at halftime.
North Sanpete ends its season with a 17-4 overall record and the Region 14 regular season title. The Hawks graduate four senior starters in Bowles, Morley, Hunter Price, and Duncan Hendry, along with fellow seniors Andy Mower, Dante Lowe and Isaac Jessop.