When Jake Riding intercepted a pass from the Stansbury offense, he brought it back down the court and put an emphatic exclamation point on a blowout win for Grantsville.
Riding lifted off from the right side of the paint and raised both arms with the ball above his head. He hammered down the basketball through the net for a two-handed dunk that echoed through the gym and sent the Grantsville High School student section into a frenzy. The dunk gave the Cowboys a 54-35 lead over the Stansbury Stallions en route to a 68-40 win.
The win guaranteed Grantsville will play at home in the first round of the 3A State Tournament, and it now has a chance to win the region championship Friday.
“We’ve never had a student section like this,” said Devin Adams about the loudness inside Grantsville’s gym Wednesday. “We have the whole town coming to the games now. We have all the support we need to go far.”
The student section may have been a little too riled up for the game against Stansbury. When Adams won the opening tip-off to give Grantsville possession at the start of the game, the students threw baby powder into the air. A white cloud of baby powder engulfed the gymnasium, and play had to be stalled so that the powder could be swept off the floor and cleared out of the air. After a 14-minute delay, the game resumed and Stansbury was awarded two technical foul free throws. Stansbury’s Shane Andrus hit one of them.
Adams said the Cowboys make sure to focus on each opponent in front of them, and they treat that opponent with respect. He said that’s been huge for them in having a successful season.
“It doesn’t matter who it is,” he said. “We could be playing the Miami Heat or some 1A school, we’re going to focus as hard as we can on each team because we respect each team. That’s part of winning is respecting each team you play because if you respect teams, you play better.”
The Cowboys got production from just about everybody against Stansbury, and it didn’t go unnoticed by head coach Chris Baker.
“I don’t have any complaints,” Baker said. “We didn’t do everything all the time as well defensively as we’re used to, but then you look at the score and they only had 40 points. I’m pretty picky when it comes to that.”
The run at the end of the third quarter that set up Grantsville’s run in the fourth quarter took place after a three-point play from Stansbury’s Gage Manzione. He knocked down the free throw to cut Grantsviile’s lead to 43-31. Stansbury’s Justin May swatted away a layup attempt from Riding, but the ball went out of bounds and remained Grantsville’s possession. The Cowboys set up the offense, and the play ended with a layup by Aaron Harrison.
On Grantsville’s ensuing possession, Dallin Williams drove the lane and attempted an off-balance shot that went up and in. Following two free throws by May, the Cowboys came back down, and the ball ended up in Harrison’s hands. He attempted a contested jump shot with 2 seconds left on the clock. The jump shot went in, and Grantsville took a 49-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
Stansbury’s Taylor Graves opened the fourth quarter with a pass to Manzione who finished off the play to make it 49-35, but the Cowboys came right back with their own fireworks. Adams spotted Spencer Lawrence, who knocked down a 3-pointer. After Riding’s two-handed dunk, Williams then had the ball on a baseline inbound play. He spotted Lawrence, who knocked down another 3-pointer, and just like that the Cowboys were ahead by 22 points.
They extended the lead to 26 points at 61-35 on free throws by Williams and a drive layup by Nick Arbon.
Despite the loss for Stansbury, Manzione led all scorers with 16 points. Although technically the Stallions still had a shot at third place going into the game against Grantsville, the game was essentially meaningless for them. No matter what, they still have to beat Ben Lomond to get into the state tournament.
Now the stage is set: Stansbury vs. Ben Lomond in a winner-take-all matchup. The winner advances to the state tournament, and the loser stays home.
“It’s a loss to Grantsville, which we don’t like to do, but the one that’s going to sting is the one on Friday,” said SHS head coach Rich Lakin. “That’s the one that’s important. This one was just try to beat Grantsville, and they’re a good ball club. We just broke down defensive-wise, and then we rushed our shots on offense and had turnovers.”
Stansbury focused on playing against zone defense, which is what Ben Lomond used to get the win the last time the two teams played.
“We really have been working on the zone a lot,” Lakin said. “I think we can break it down. That’s why Ben Lomond beat us at home is they went into a zone, and we weren’t patient. We forced the ball, we turned the ball over and they got fastbreak points. That’s how they won.”
Stansbury hits the road for its winner-take-all game in Ogden against Ben Lomond on Friday at 7 p.m.
For Grantsville, Baker said his players know they have unfinished business when they take the floor against Tooele on Friday.
“We’ve got to take care of business for the tie,” Baker said. Bear River defeated Tooele on Wednesday to clinch a share of the region championship. So now Grantsville can clinch a share of the championship with a win against Tooele. “We have a bunch of boys that want it, that’s for sure.”
Adams said the Cowboys need to keep doing what they do best to beat Tooele and capture the region championship.
“We’re physical, and that’s how we play,” Adams said. “They have speed, and we have a bunch of big, strong football players.”