Templars finish pre-season 9-1
Manti beats Hurricane, Logan and Roy in St. George tourney
By Bob Bahlmann
ST. GEORGE—The Manti Templars came away from the Coach Walker tournament in St. George with three impressive wins to wrap up pre-season play.
Manti defeated Hurricane (4A) on Thursday Dec. 20 by a score of 79-63, beat Logan (4A) on Friday 70-58 and then battled Roy (5A) to a 69-49 victory on Saturday.
Before the tournament began, head coach Devin Shakespeare said he was looking for three key factors in his players. “This will be a good opportunity to measure us,” he said. “It will test our resiliency. It will test our rebounding against bigger teams. We’ll need to limit our turnovers.”
After three days of play, the Templars answered all three of those tests. Playing most of the weekend without Ben and Isaac Cluff, who were in Mexico on a humanitarian service outing, Manti went deep into their bench and got good efforts across the board. “The guys came in, played hard and made good decisions,” Shakespeare said.
On Thursday Manti trailed the Hurricane Tigers the entire first half, but battled to pull within two with seconds remaining. Mason Thompson was fouled on a 3-point attempt as the buzzer sounded and drilled all three free throws with no time on the clock to give Manti a 31-30 lead at the intermission.
The Templars opened the second half with a 9-0 run to pull ahead of the Tigers and never looked back. The Tigers narrowed the Manti lead to five midway through the fourth quarter, but Mason Thompson hit a trio of threes to help Manti pull away for the 16-point win.
Against a team whose average height was as tall as Manti’s tallest starter, the Templars matched the Tigers on the boards with 22 rebounds by each team. Manti forced 14 Hurricane turnovers and netted 21 points off those takeaways.
Mason Thompson led the team with 27 points, 18 from behind the arc. Adam Huff had 19 points, Grady Thompson and Travis Thomson had eight each, Dallin Cox added five, Ben Cluff joined Connor Christiansen and Kevin Clark with four each.
Friday night the Templars took on the Logan Grizzlies. In an up-tempo game that saw the Templars holding a narrow 36-34 lead at the half, Manti was getting beat on the boards 8-18 at the intermission. Playing with renewed effort after the intermission, the Templars outrebounded Logan 10-8 in the second half.
Early in the fourth quarter, with Manti holding a three-point lead, the game clock went out. After it was restored several minutes later, the Templars scored on 10 of their last 11 possessions to pull away from the Grizzlies for the 12 point win.
Manti again won the turnover battle, taking the ball away from the Grizzlies 13 times while giving it up ten times. They scored 14 points off turnovers compared to only eight by Logan.
Huff led the team with 20 points, Kevin Clark had 13, nine from 3-point range. Thomson scored 12 points and Christiansen added nine, all from behind the arc. Mason Thompson had eight, Grady Thompson rounded out the scoring with six points.
Against Roy, the Templars trailed early, but chipped away at the Royal lead until the 1:32 mark in the first quarter when Kevin Clark nailed a three to give Manti their first lead. The Templars then went on an 18-0 run to pull away from Roy.
Third quarter action was pretty ragged with the two teams combining for 11 turnovers, but Manti settled down and went turnover free in the fourth to hold on for the 20 point win.
Against a much bigger team, the Templars only allowed five offensive rebounds and pulled down 22 boards compared to 20 by the Royals. Manti forced 19 turnovers, netting 23 points, while giving up the ball 11 times.
Huff led the Templars with 15 points while Thomson scored 14 and Grady Thompson had 11. Mason Thompson added eight, Konnor Clark had seven, Kevin Clark and Christiansen had five each and Jordan Blauer had four.
The Templars took a week off for Christmas before beginning region play on January 2 by hosting Richfield. After convincing wins over upper classification schools, the Templars might be thinking region competition against 3A schools will be easy. That train of thought could be dangerous.
Region 15 is loaded again this year and the seven teams that make up this region have a combined pre-season record of 44-14. The Templars will need to take care of business at home and stay focused on the road to finish on top of Region 15.