Templars fall in play offs, take fourth in 3A
By Matt Harris
RICHFIELD—The Manti boys basketball season could best be described as a cruise on I-15 if it had traffic lights and intersections.
For all the beautiful drives purring along at 75 miles per hour, there were plenty of brake-screeching moments running into red lights. If one can imagine how inconvenient and frustrating that would be in real life, welcome to Templar basketball.
The Templars hit the skids for the second time in an otherwise brilliant season last weekend, falling to Region 13 champion Morgan in the 3A semifinals on Friday night, 48-41, and losing again Saturday in the third-place game to region foe Emery, 78-73.
The Templars finished fourth in 3A this season, while Morgan went on to defeat Richfield, 68-54, and claim the 3A title.
Manti kicked things off in the playoffs with an impressive win over Region-14 champion Providence Hall, 74-56. The Patriots had one of the best players in the state, Marcus Sherwood, but Manti suffocated his supporting cast. Sherwood finished with 24 points and six rebounds but couldn’t make an impact on the offensive rebounding.
“Our key was that we knew that Sherwood was going to score,” Coach Devin Shakespear said. “We didn’t want to give the supporting cast anything else…they do a really good job passing out of their bigs.”
The Templars held Providence Hall to three offensive rebounds, which Shakespear said was “huge.”
More impressive, Sherwood was not even statistically the best player on the court. That title went to Manti sophomore Grady Thompson, who dominated the Patriots to the tune of 25 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Big brother Mason Thompson pulled in 14 points, while junior Connor Christiansen scored a season high 13 points.
“[Grady] had an exceptional game,” Shakespear said. “Guys rallied around and did a good job supporting him with defense and obviously keeping things moving.”
Next the Templars next faced Morgan. The Trojans had been playing shockingly good defense over their previous four games, not allowing any opponents to score more than 48 points. The had allowed an average of only 37.5 points per game during the playoffs to that point.
Any expectation Manti had of breaking Morgan’s defense quickly faded when the Trojans led 18-12 after the first quarter and held the Templars to under 20 points in the first half.
“We got some early looks that didn’t fall,” Shakespear said, “and we…got down pretty quick…At that point, fighting back, down eight or 10 points, I don’t know if guys rushed a little bit, because we actually had a lot of really good looks.”
In the second half, Manti showed plenty more fight. After falling behind by double digits late in the third quarter, they were pretty desperate to get back in the game.
Senior and leading-scorer Adam Huff came alive for the Templars, sinking three 3-pointers to push his scoring total to 16, while a 3-pointer from junior Kevin Clark as time expired in the third made it a four-point game with all the momentum going for Manti.
Junior Travis Thomson nailed a finger roll layup to make it a two-point game, 37-35, on the first possession of the fourth quarter and minutes later brought it within two points again on a pump-fake layup below the hoop.
Tragically, each time the Templars got close, Morgan sank just one more heartbreaking shot to keep the game out of reach until the very end.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Shakespear said. “They worked their guts out and gave us a chance to still win, but we fell short. Gotta give Morgan credit; they did an exceptional job defending us.”
Huff finished as Manti’s leading scorer with his 16 points in the first three quarters, and was the only Templar to score over 10 points. The Templars shot a stale 6-21 from the 3-point line.
Manti followed up the effort with a solid performance in the third-place game against Emery but came up just short against the Spartans. Mason Thompson went down early with an ankle sprain, which unglued the flow of the Templar offense.
Mason Thompson, Huff, and senior Dallin Cox gave their best curtain call in their final games as Templars as they scored 18, 18, and 12, respectively, while Manti provided a look at the future with another stunning all-around performance from Grady Thompson, who scored 10 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.
Manti finished 20-7 overall this season and took third in region. Next year they move to Region 14 along with North Sanpete. Huff finished his senior season as a top-10 scorer in the state for 3A, while Grady Thompson was a top-10 rebounder.
“When you can win 20 games, with the schedule we had,” Shakespear said, “that’s a win…Reality is, we had a really good season. It was a really fun team to coach.”