Templars beat out Bulldogs, 75-63, in early
season action for both
By Matt Harris
MANTI—The Manti boys’ basketball team’s first game of the season was victory as the Templars claimed a win over the visiting Gunnison Valley Bulldogs, 75-63.
The Templars’ penchant for offense continued as Manti had five players in double figures. Junior Grady Thompson led the charge with 19 points, and a host of seniors backed him up as Travis Thomson, Conner Christiansen, Kevin Clark, and Jordan Blauer contributed 12, 11, 11, and 10 points, respectively.
Gunnison’s junior Creed Mogle led all scorers with 24 points while junior Harley Hill, after playing quarterback in the fall, came through for 17 points. Senior Brandon Tucker contributed 11 points.
Clark’s 3-pointer on the Templars’ first possession provided Manti’s first points of the new season while Tucker made a layup for the Gunnison’s first points.
After Gunnison got a 4-3 lead off a Mogle layup, Manti put pressure on the Bulldogs after two free throws from Thomson and forced a turnover. When Christiansen missed a 3-pointer, Blauer flew in to tip it back in for a 7-4 lead.
Manti’s perimeter shooting was alive early, making two of their first three attempts from downtown and getting a 12-6 lead. The first five minutes of the game featured numerous steals and blocks as both teams came out energetic on defense.
Manti’s chaotic defense continued to force Bulldog turnovers and the Templars built up a 19-10 lead, but Mogle kept them in it when after a made free throw, Mogle took a shot from nearly 30 feet out and sank it to bring Gunnison within 5 points to end the quarter.
Manti’s offense generated a great deal of offensive opportunities off lobs to the inside, while Gunnison’s offense revolved around Mogle’s direction.
Thompson sunk a 3-pointer halfway through the second quarter to give Manti a double-digit lead for the first time in the game, 28-17, part of a 14-3 run that put Manti up 33-17.
Despite Mogle looking like easily the best athlete on the court, Manti couldn’t be stopped on the offensive rebounding, and the Templars took a 14-point lead to halftime, 41-27.
Gunnison opened the second half with a 3-pointer from Hill. Hill attempted another 3-pointer later on which he was fouled, and he sank all three free throws to cut Manti’s lead to 10. Gunnison started to get aggressive with their half-court offense, and while they weren’t making their field goals, the long arms of Manti’s defenders started to get them in trouble and Gunnison went to the line several times.
At just under three minutes to go in the third quarter, Gunnison senior Austin Zavatsky nailed a 3-pointer for his first points of the game and made it a five-point game, 47-42, part of a 16-5 run for the Bulldogs.
Thompson stopped the Bulldogs’ momentum with a long 3-pointer to extend the lead back out to seven. Nevertheless, Gunnison entered the fourth quarter down by only eight and with more energy than the whole first half.
Manti’s fiery offense came back on in the fourth quarter as the Templars created more turnovers and scored on several fast break opportunities to open the quarter, extending their lead back to 12 after the first minute and never looking back.
The Templars built a lead as high as 18 in the final minutes before Gunnison fought back.
Gunnison finished with a heavy advantage in point from the foul line, hitting 26 of 34 free throw attempts while Manti made 11 of 18 attempts.
Manti holds the No. 2 spot in Deseret News’ first 3A ranking of the season. Manti is 3-0 against the Bulldogs since they moved to 3A in 2016, but last week’s game was the closest contest in that span.
The Bulldogs fell to 1-1 on the season after their season-opening victory against Wayne last Thursday, 57-41. Mogle and Hill led the scoring in that effort with 17 points and 16 points, respectively.
Manti’s season continues against Richfield on Wednesday at home after they played South Summit last Tuesday after press time.
Gunnison returns home to host Tintic next Tuesday.