Templars go 3-0 last week, including victory over rival Bulldogs, 76-63
By Matt Harris
MANTI—In terms of a welcome back to the court after the winter break, Manti boys’ basketball couldn’t have been blessed with a much better outcome.
The Templars went 3-0 last week, pushing their winning streak to four games with wins over Gunnison Valley, 76-63, Maeser Prep, 62-28, and American Leadership Academy, 82-66, and their overall record pushed to 8-3.
The Templars played the Bulldogs Tuesday of last week as a rescheduling of an earlier planned contest to replace Manti’s cancelled game against Juab that day, and despite the history of Manti’s domination over Gunnison Valley the last few years, it was Gunnison who had the early upper hand with a 21-18 lead after the first quarter.
Try as the Bulldogs may to keep up with the Templars, Manti quickly got ahead in the second quarter with a 24-point effort and took a 42-37 lead into halftime.
Gunnison’s aggressive ball-handlers attacked the rim and got the most out of making it a contact sport, earning numerous trips to the charity stripe and sinking 24 of 31 free throws.
However, it wasn’t enough to counteract the 30 made field goals by the Manti offense, led by a monster night from Templar star senior Grady Thompson.
Thompson went on to finish with one of the most outstanding performances of his career, scoring 30 points on 12-17 shooting, grabbing 10 rebounds, dishing 7 assists, and adding 4 steals and 2 blocks.
Senior Tate Quarnberg scored 13 points and senior Trace Boggess added 12 points, 5 boards, and 6 assists.
“Grady had a phenomenal game,” Coach Devin Shakespear said. “We were just glad to be playing…even with Grady scoring 30 points, we had a lot of assists, and he had a lot of assists.”
Gunnison Coach Ben Hill seemed to be more than happy to rewrite the Templars back into the schedule. “The Manti game every year is my favorite game to play,” Hill said. “The kids played each other their whole entire lives….They’ve beat us the past few years, but nevertheless, they are fun, exciting games.”
Gathering momentum from the rivalry win, Manti powered through an easy win against the overpowered Maeser Prep Lions, leading wire to wire as senior Austin Cox led with 12 points and Boggess chipped in another 11.
A better challenge awaited the Templars in the form of the ALA Eagles last Friday.
Within the first possession of the game, Manti and ALA realized that their night together would be a very long one, thanks to some very active whistles.
Manti got the first lead and kept it throughout the game, but momentum was hard to come by since the foul calls were coming in droves, nearly 30 being called in the first half alone.
The Templars and the Eagles combined to attempt a staggering 57 free throws through four quarters. It very well may have been the difference in the game as a whole as the Templars shot 22-28, while ALA struggled through 13-29 from the line.
“For whatever reason, we currently are not adjusting as quickly as we need to be,” Shakespear said. “Both ways, there were a ton of fouls…we’ve just got to do a better job keeping our hands up, got to do a better job being vertical on our up-and-downs.”
On the final possession of the first half, Manti passed around to give Thompson the ball for the final shot with less than 10 seconds left, but the senior’s shot attempt was deflected, forcing the loose ball into the hands of sophomore Larsen Pogroszewski with a second remaining. Pogroszewski let it fly from NBA range, draining the buzzer beater for a 41-29 lead. Manti went on to lead by double digits for the remainder of the contest.
Four different Manti players scored in double figures as Cox led with 19 points, while Thompson and Quarnberg each scored 14. Senior Tanner Justesen chipped in 11 points.
For Quarnberg, who started against ALA after slowly recovering from an early-season injury, his 33 combined points over the last week alone nearly doubled his scoring output of his junior season.
The Templars are at home against Union this Wednesday.