The Grantsville High School student section could be heard loud and clear inside Tooele High School’s gymnasium Friday night with its chant of “Region Champs!”
The Grantsville Cowboys defeated the Tooele Buffaloes 62-44 to win a share of the Region 11 boys basketball championship with Bear River. This was Grantsville’s first region championship since 1999 and first since the Cowboys moved from 2A to 3A.
“I’m so happy for all these kids,” said GHS head coach Chris Baker. “It’s a lot of hard work. We’ve got these seniors that have put in so much time.”
GHS senior Devon Arellano said it’s been hard work putting things together to make a run at the region championship this season.
“With all that hard work in practice these last four years, it means so much to us,” Arellano said. “Grantsville’s finally on the map.”
Grantsville was also awarded the No. 1 seed in the region for the state tournament after winning a coin toss with Bear River.
“Always call heads,” Baker said.
The Cowboys jumped out to a 21-8 lead over the Buffaloes in the first quarter, and they never turned back. Tooele got 3-pointers from Ace Hymas and Tyler Lawrence to go up 6-4, but then Grantsville’s Spencer Lawrence came back with back-to-back 3-pointers of his own to put the Cowboys ahead 10-6. That was the beginning of a 13-0 run by the Cowboys before Tooele called timeout. Grantsville extended the run to 17-0 before Hymas snapped it at the end of the quarter with a bucket.
Spencer Lawrence scored 10 of his total 12 points in the first quarter. That got the Cowboys going, and Tyler Colson finished off the quarter with seven points of his own.
“Defense — that’s what we’re about,” Baker said. “We stayed true tonight. We talked about it the whole day [Thursday] — defense and rebounding. If we (play) defense and rebound, then we’ll win by 20. We knew they were going triangle on us. They did it in the first game, overplaying Arellano and (Devin) Adams. They left guys wide open all over, so we had the start we needed. Then it’s going to be hard to catch up with us because we defend too well.”
With the No. 1 seed in the region, Grantsville will host Cedar in the first round of the Utah State 3A Basketball Tournament. Cedar defeated Grantsville 50-43 on Jan. 2 in Cedar City. The two teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 23, and then Cedar pulled away in the final minutes.
As for the team’s outlook on the tournament as a whole, it believes it can beat anybody and win the whole thing.
“We’ve got a good shot,” Baker said. “We’ve got a good shot, and we believe.”
Arellano said the team needs to keep doing what it does best.
“We need to just keep working on defense,” Arellano said. “Defense wins games. That’s all we do — defend.”
The Tooele Buffaloes wanted to get momentum and play to their potential against Grantsville. Their spot as third place in the region was secured and couldn’t be improved upon with a win, so it was a matter of getting everything fine-tuned for the state tournament. However, THS coach Shawn Faux said the team didn’t play to where it needed to play.
“I’m not taking anything from Grantsville, but we did not play to our potential,” Faux said. “Really where that game was lost was in the first two quarters for us. I thought we came out and played a really good third quarter and got after it defensively, held them to eight (points). That’s the Tooele I know that we can be.”
Faux said he loved the Buffaloes’ effort in the fourth quarter, but by that point the game had already gotten away from them and it was too tough to claw back against a quality opponent like Grantsville.
“We dug ourselves in a hole like that, we let the game get away from us way too early, and I think that’s a little disappointing,” Faux said. “I really wanted us to come out and be a little more precise and execute — take it after them.”
Tooele now has the week to prepare for its first round matchup with the Pine View Panthers down in St. George.
“What it’s going to take is 15 young men to start believing in themselves and one another and start playing team basketball,” Faux said. “If they want to show up, and they want to compete, and they want to play hard and get after it as a group, we’ll play anybody. I’m very confident that this team can play, and we’ve shown that.”
Faux said playing in the state tournament is a new experience for his players, and there is a learning curve that goes with it.
“Not one of them has ever been to a state playoff,” he said. “It’s just like winning is a new thing for them, and they’ve got to understand how to do it and what it takes to stay on top to keep winning. This is what we’ve worked for, but it comes down to the fact that we’ve got to get 15 young men excited and wanting to be there and get after it as well.”
Tooele’s game against Pine View takes place at 4 p.m. Saturday at Pine View High School in St. George.