Templars undefeated going into region play
By Matt Harris
RICHFIELD—After two weeks of non-region play, Manti boys’ basketball remained in the best spot they could possibly be—undefeated.
The Templars traveled to Richfield for the Central Utah Basketball Preview and knocked off Grantsville, 70-63, and Morgan, 63-50, last weekend. After preceding those wins with a dramatic win over Richfield, 57-55, Manti moved to 5-0 on the season for the first time since 2007, when they played in 2A.
“Playing good teams this last week gives us many things to work on,” Coach Devin Shakespear said. “We need to address consistency in rebounding, turnovers and defensive breakdowns. I was proud of our efforts and we look forward to continue working for consistency and high performance.”
The matchup with Richfield last Tuesday was No. 1 against No. 2 in terms of Deseret News 3A rankings. Richfield put the fear in the Templars with a close game that was in the Wildcats’ favor, 25-23, at halftime. In the third quarter, the tight defense of the Wildcats choked the Templars’ scoring ability, while Richfield slowly worked its way out to a 10-point lead, 38-28, part of a 13-0 run for Richfield.
Senior Connor Christiansen stepped up and brought the Templars back with a 3-pointer to make it 38-31, but it was answered by Richfield with another three, and by the end of the third quarter, Manti was down by eight.
At the first timeout of the fourth quarter at 7:24, Richfield was again up by 10, but Manti started to mount their comeback. A pair of layups and a free throw from Christiansen brought the Templars within five. Then another layup made it a 3-point game before Richfield sank two more free throws.
The Templars weren’t done. Senior Jordan Blauer fired up the crowd with a deep 3-pointer inside of three minutes to go. Two possessions later, Blauer skied for a rebound off a missed three and put it back in to tie the game at 47 apiece.
With the game tied, both teams chaotically fought for possession of the ball for nearly the entire final minute as Richfield desperately tried to get off the final shot, but it was Manti who had the chance to win as a foul put senior Travis Thomson at the line.
Thomson missed both free throws, and Richfield stormed down the court as their guard went for a game-winning layup. He made the shot, but Christiansen made arguably the pay of the game by drawing an offensive foul to negate the shot and send the game to overtime.
In overtime, senior Kevin Clark drained a three to put the Templars up for the first time in over a half, leading by three. It was a lead the Templars would not give up.
Clark, Blauer, and Christiansen combined for 48 points, scoring 17, 16, and 15, respectively. All three players scored their season-highs in this game.
“I was proud of our guys’ resilience and toughness in that game,” Shakespear said. “They never stopped believing. We hope to learn and get better from that game.”
At the Preview, Manti showed out with two impressive victories.
Against Grantsville, the Templars were down early, 19-13 after a quarter, but they shellacked the Cowboys in the second quarter, 26-2, to hold a 39-21 lead at the half. Though Grantsville fought back in the fourth, outscoring Manti by 13 points, Manti stole the victory with ease.
Junior Grady Thompson had himself a night with 25 points, while Clark chipped in 16, and Thomson scored 10.
The Templars then took down a rival with a win over Morgan. Manti stifled the Trojans on defense, holding them to merely 15 points in the first half, and somewhat avenged their semifinal loss to the Trojans in last season’s state tournament.
“Honestly, it did not feel like a revenge game because it was not in the state tournament,” Shakespear said. “That’s the game I would love to replay, but without that opportunity, I was proud of our first half.”
Manti played South Sevier last night after press time and will be on the road against Maeser Prep to begin region play tomorrow night. They then host Juab next Wednesday.