After nearly three grueling months of practices, preseason games and region play, the real season — the one that means everything — is finally here.
And if this past weekend’s opening-round games of the Class 3A state basketball tournament are to serve as any sort of example, we’re in for a fun ride.
Tooele and Stansbury tip off their state tournaments for both the boys’ and girls’ teams this weekend. But on Friday and Saturday in Heber City, it was Grantsville who got the postseason under way and gave us all a taste of what is to come.
The Grantsville girls’ 28-point blowout victory over Manti was no shock. The Cowboys were always going to win that game by a lot against an incredibly overmatched Templars squad that got into the postseason only because six of the seven teams in Region 15 got in, and the seventh, North Sanpete, didn’t win a game all season (Manti’s only two region wins were against NSHS).
What was a pleasant surprise for the Grantsville faithful was the fact that the Cowboys didn’t take the Templars lightly. Instead, they took care of business from the opening tip and generally played like they were facing a much better opponent. That can only benefit them as they go into this weekend’s quarterfinal game against South Sevier in St. George. If they approach every game that way, it makes them far less prone to an upset — and the derailment of a season that seems destined for a top-three finish at worst.
The next day, I couldn’t stay away from the boys’ first round games even though I didn’t have to be there — former Transcript Bulletin sports editor Tavin Stucki was set to write the Grantsville game story, but having taken a glance at the online stream of the early games, I figured I’d make the drive up and watch a few games myself.
Boy, was that a good choice. Game after game. Almost all of them competitive. Two overtime games. And the nightcap, in which Grantsville put together its best game in a long time — potentially its best of the year? What a treat.
I’ll admit I had more than a few personal connections to the Class 3A boys bracket. San Juan’s head coach, Ryan Nielson, was my head coach when I was in high school and I still consider him a good friend. Rand Janes, Richfield’s head coach, was on the basketball team at Southern Utah University when I was the sports editor for the school paper. Grantsville’s next opponent, Grand, is my high school alma mater (worry not, Grantsville fans — Tavin’s got that one covered, too), and it was nice to see some familiar faces in that crowd.
And I’ve been watching coach Bryan Detweiler and his current cast of Cowboys for the past four seasons, so I enjoyed seeing them pull off the win over Union (even at the expense of their head coach, a fellow Grand High alum, Gordon Garrett).
And that was just a taste. The Grantsville girls and boys have a great chance of finishing at least in the top five, if they don’t end up winning the whole thing. The boys and girls from Tooele and Stansbury are all enjoying special seasons, and all of them have a chance of making a deep run in the state tournament.
Whatever the results end up being, I know one thing for sure — it’s going to be intense.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He’s looking forward to seeing how the state basketball tournaments pan out. Email him at email@example.com.