OGDEN—After an unlikely run in the UHSAA 3A state basketball tournament, the run ended for the Manti High boys basketball team last Saturday with a fourth-place finish.
After losing to Grantsville in the semifinals at the Dee Events Center on the campus of Weber State University, on Friday night, 65-45, the Templars dropped a 73-57 contest to Juan Diego in the final consolation game on Saturday afternoon at nearby Bonneville High School.
Manti entered the tournament as a No. 7 overall seed. And although their game against Grantsville was their first postseason game against a higher-seeded team, the Templars exceeded the expectations of many by playing a game on the final day of the tournament.
“Taking three senior leaders who didn’t get a lot of playing time,” head coach Devin Shakespear said, “I think the satisfaction is really in the progress [the team] made. Our expectations don’t change. I’m very happy and proud of our guys stepping up and meeting those expectations this year when a lot of people expected us to rebuild.”
The Templars struggled to make shots in any capacity against Juan Diego, shooting less than 30 percent from the field. Manti also struggled heavily with turnovers and only had a few assists to speak of heading into the fourth quarter. As a result of the off-night by the Templars, Juan Diego took a 65-31 lead over Manti into the final eight minutes.
With just over six minutes remaining, Juan Diego’s center, Malick Diallo, maneuvered in the paint against junior Kayson Douglas, causing Douglas to go to the ground trying to draw a charge. What he got instead was Diallo unintentionally stepping on his head, causing Douglas to cry out in pain in what became a deathly quiet moment in the gym. Fortunately, Douglas wasn’t seriously injured, but he did not return to the game.
As if it were the sparkplug needed to kindle the Templar offense for one last time, Manti subsequently went on a 9-0 scoring run to bring the game within 24 points. After a few exchanged free throws back and forth, the score was 70-46.
With just over a minute and a half remaining, Manti checked in all its seniors: Cameron Sterner, Ashton Swenson, and Dylan Christensen.
The Templars then went on a tear in the next 60 seconds, not allowing a single field goal attempt by Juan Diego while going on an 11-0 run to make it a 13-point game.
Manti’s senior class had its moment, and with the game in hand for Juan Diego, Shakespear checked the three seniors out to thunderous applause.
“It took a little bit longer than I would have hoped,” Shakespear said, “but the guys finally decided that we’re not gonna go out just laying over. It was fun to see our guys not just give in and fight until the last moment.”
Junior Dylan Anderson led the Templars in scoring with 11 points in what turned out to be a balanced scoring effort for Manti. Senior Dylan Christensen scored nine points, five of them in the final minute. Sophomore Reggie Frischknecht had eight points to go with 14 rebounds.
Juan Diego dominated early, going to Diallo early and often as the Soaring Eagle went on a 12-0 run between the first and second quarters. Juan Diego also didn’t allow a point for Manti in roughly eight minutes of play.
Long before the incident involving Douglas’s head, the physicality of this game was evident as junior Christian Hansen sustained a flesh wound to his face that would reopen multiple times over the course of the game.
After Juan Diego got out to a 20-point lead going into halftime, Manti attempted to begin the second half playing fast, but they were immediately matched and outdone by Juan Diego, whose guards shot well all game long. Juan Diego continued to extend the lead, getting out to a 30-point lead on a fast-break rim-rocking dunk by Diallo.
The night prior, Manti played a tough game against the eventual 3A runners-up, the Grantsville Cowboys. It mostly came down to the experience of Grantsville’s seniors, as the Cowboys star senior, Carter Killian, led all scorers with 21 points. Grantsville’s three senior starters combined for 46 points, and the Cowboys shot over 60 percent from the field.
Killian scored Grantsville’s first nine points.
In the second quarter, Grantsville went on a 13-0 run to pull away from the Templars, aided in part by multiple calls from the officials that incensed the normally calm Shakespear.
Leading 54-37 going into the fourth quarter, Grantsville went on a 7-0 run to put the game away. In the final three minutes of play, two points scored by Manti were the only points scored as the Cowboys punched their ticket to the championship game.
Manti relied heavily on the junior class in this game as Douglas led the team with 15 points, while junior Christian Hansen scored 12, and junior Larsen Pogroszewski scored 10.
Manti ends its season with a 15-11 overall record. The Templars took second place in Region 14. As of right now, the expectation is that the Templars will return their entire starting lineup and several key bench players in the 2022-23 season.
“Our goal is not to rebuild,” Shakespear said. “Our goal is to reload every year and compete in the final weekend.”