Templars upset San Juan to clinch playoff berth
MANTI—The Manti High boys varsity basketball team finished regular season play with a pair of home court victories and a 4-6 league record to clinch the fourth place seed for the 2A State Tournament.
On Wednesday, Feb. 8 the Templars defeated North Sevier, 68-57, and then on Friday, Feb. 10, upset San Juan, 85-69.
North Sevier has not won a Region 15 game, and most Manti fans expected the game to be an easy win for the Templars. Nobody bothered to tell the Wolves, who stayed with the Templars most of three quarters before the Manti went to their half-court trap defense in the late game, forcing turnovers and getting easy buckets.
Late in the first half, the Wolves went on a 9-0 run to build a substantial lead, but Tanner Rasmussen hit a three and then got a put-back bucket to pull Manti back to within one point.
Mac Stevens came alive in the second half where he scored most of his team-high 16 points. Rasmussen finished the game with 15. Matt Nelson had 10. Dylan Wathen added nine. Riley Curtis and Sam Benson had six each. Corbin Linam scored four, and Kole Brailsford had two.
Friday’s game against San Juan had significant playoff implications. The Broncos were playing for second place while the Templars were looking to avoid having to play Gunnison again in a play-in game. Manti’s win clinched the fourth seed for the Templars, and the Broncos will go into the tournament as the three seed from Region 15.
Manti took advantage of hot hands from beyond the three-point line to take an early lead. Linam and Stevens each hit two. Stevens hit second, a buzzer beater, to give Manti a 24-15 lead at the end of one period. The Broncos were never able to close that gap.
San Juan went to the foul in the closing minutes, but Manti was a perfect 12 of 12 from the line in the closing period to hold on for the win.
Manti finished the game making 11 of 24 three-point shots and 16 of 20 from the free throw line. They outrebounded San Juan 31-23.
Manti had an even offensive attack with six players in double figures. Stevens was two of two from three-point range on his way to a game-high 20 points. Linam was three for three from behind the arc on his way to 15 points. Wathen was five of seven from the field and perfect from the charity stripe and also had 15 points. Curtis added 13 points. Nelson and Rasmussen had ten each, and Kade Nicholes had two.
Manti will now travel to Orem High School on Saturday, Feb. 18 where they will play the Waterford Ravens. Waterford finished the season tied for first in Region 14 with Layton Christian and won the toss for the number one seed.
The Ravens are 7-1 in region play and 14-6 overall. They are ranked No. 3 in the state behind Emery and South Sevier. They have three players to watch. Parker Law is a senior center who averages 12 points per game and five rebounds. Alexander Priskos is a senior guard who scores 15 points per game and dishes out five assists. Jackson Sponaugle is a senior guard who scores 18 points per game. All three of these players, along with Brennan Connor, a senior guard, can hit three pointers.
Waterford is a match the Templars can win, but they will need to bring their “A” game. Against common opponents, the Templars are 3-5 while the Ravens are 4-2. Both teams beat Maeser Prep and Millard. Waterford beat Gunnison while the Templars split with the Bulldogs. The Ravens beat Enterprise by eight, but Manti lost to the Wolves by that same margin. Both teams lost to Pine View and Emery.