Not much was expected of the Grantsville boys basketball team when the season began.
The Cowboys were picked to finish in the middle of the pack in Region 13. They weren’t supposed to make it past the first weekend of the Class 3A state tournament. A program that went through an offseason coaching change after a swift first-round postseason exit was supposed to be little more than mediocre.
As it turned out, the preseason prognosticators couldn’t have been more wrong.
Grantsville capped its season with a fifth-place finish at the state tournament Saturday at Salt Lake Community College’s Lifetime Activities Center in Taylorsville, winning 11 of its final 15 games despite an unexpected coaching change in midseason and a shoulder injury that took key reserve Kayden Bohman out of action for the Cowboys’ final contest.
“I knew better and these boys knew better,” Grantsville interim coach Stace Riding said. “I knew what we had. I think we proved it. The latter half of the season, we’ve been playing good basketball.”
Grantsville (15-10), which finished second to Judge Memorial in Region 13 this season, dominated from the start of its 49-36 win over South Sevier in Saturday’s fifth-place game. That came on the heels of a 60-43 demolition of San Juan in the consolation semifinals on Friday afternoon.
Those two wins were particularly impressive, given the disappointment the Cowboys felt after a 67-54 loss to eventual state champion Manti in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“We came in fully expecting that we should be able to compete for a state championship,” Riding said. “I’d like to have that (Manti) game over — we came in a little bit shell-shocked and too tight. My biggest fear was trying to get the kids motivated to come back (Friday) and compete in the consolation bracket.”
The Cowboys have now placed at state in two of the past three seasons, having finished third in the 2018 state tournament.
No. 8 Grantsville 49,
No. 10 South Sevier 36
The Cowboys led 11-4 after the first quarter and 26-10 at halftime thanks to a smothering defense that the Rams couldn’t solve, along with a brutally efficient offense that shot 50% (20-for-40) from the field.
“I was super proud of the kids for coming back and giving that effort,” Riding said. “It’s always good to end the season on a win. To finish as the fifth-best team in 3A, I’ll take that.”
Sophomore guard Tuhker Mulford was red-hot, scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field — including 3-of-3 from 3-point range. Senior forward Jackson Sandberg finished his high school career with a 10-point, 12-rebound performance, marking his sixth double-double of the season.
Davin Ekins had eight points for Grantsville, with Carter Killian adding seven and Ammon Bartley and Grayson McKeever each scoring five. Tate Allred had two points and tied with Bartley and Sandberg with three assists.
South Sevier’s Brennen Hunt had 15 points and Brandt Williams had 11. The Rams shot 26.5% (13-of-49) from the field in the loss.
No. 8 Grantsville 60,
No. 5 San Juan 43
The Broncos had hit 10 3-pointers in a narrow loss to Judge Memorial in Thursday’s quarterfinal, including eight by senior sharpshooter Shaw Nielson. However, San Juan wasn’t as successful against Grantsville, which held a 49-29 advantage over the final three quarters.
The Cowboys were 23-of-48 (47.9%) from the field, while San Juan was 16-of-62 (25.8%). Jaxon Torgerson led the Broncos with 15 points.
Bartley led a balanced Grantsville attack with 12 points to go with 11 rebounds, hitting 2-of-3 from 3-point range. He also had five steals and four assists. Ekins had 10 points, and Sandberg just missed a double-double with eight points and 14 rebounds.
Killian, Allred and Mulford each had eight points, while Bohman had five points before leaving the game with a shoulder injury after taking a charge. Taylor Wood had one point for Grantsville.
No. 1 Manti 67,
No. 8 Grantsville 54
A disappointing start doomed the Cowboys in their quarterfinal game against the Templars, who led 33-21 at halftime and fought off the Cowboys’ comeback attempt.
Grantsville shot just 37% (17-of-46) from the field and committed 23 turnovers in the loss. Ekins had 16 points for the Cowboys, while Bartley had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Killian had 10 points, four assists and three steals and Sandberg had nine points and seven rebounds. Mulford had three points and Wood added two.
Kevin Clark led five Templars in double-figures with 16 points. Grady Thompson and Conner Christiansen each had 12, Jordan Blauer had 11 and Travis Thomson had 10.
Manti went on to defeat Richfield 60-54 in Saturday’s championship game, finishing the season on a 16-game winning streak. Emery beat Judge Memorial 81-66 in the third-place game.