and Greg Knight
For the Grand County Red Devils boys’ basketball team the 2017-18 season was a storied one.
The squad, led by head coach Scott Horton and a scrappy group of four seniors, went all the way to the quarter-final round of the UHSAA 3A playoffs before falling to Grantsville in overtime, 66-62, on Thursday, Feb. 22 in St. George. The Devils fell to Morgan in the consolation bracket the following afternoon.
One heck of a season
After an errant loss to Union in the first game of the season, the Red Devils rebounded with an eight-game winning streak. That run included a 75-50 win over San Juan and a 54-44 victory over Monticello. Two tough losses at Manti (70-62) and North Sanpete (58-48) threatened midway through the season, but just three games later the Red Devils scored big with a 89-84 double-overtime victory at home against top-ranked South Sevier.
South Sevier had their revenge on Feb. 2, beating the Red Devils by 14 points to take the lead in 3A Region 15, but Grand County would do something as the regional battles came to a close that they had not done since 1973 — the year the Red Devils won a state championship.
The squad went undefeated (8-0) at home and finished the regular season at 16-5 overall (7-4 in region).
First up, the Cowboys
In Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup against Grantsville, Grand had the lead for much of the game, with the Cowboys only going up a couple times in the first half.
The Red Devils had a three-point lead and the ball with one minute left in the third quarter when Grand’s Brayden Schultz was whistled for an offensive foul while driving toward the basket for a layup. Grantsville then came down and tied the game when Kevin Roberts drained a three-pointer from the right side to make it 55-55.
Grand’s Alec Williams made a driving layup to put the Red Devils ahead 57-55 with 23 seconds left.
After calling timeout, Grantsville set up an offensive play. Their initial shot missed, but sophomore Jackson Sandberg got the rebound and put it back in to tie the game with 3.3 seconds left.
Grand called time-out, after which Williams took the ball coast-to-coast for a layup attempt at the buzzer, but his shot was blocked out of bounds. No foul was called on the play, so the game went into overtime.
Grantsville went on a 5-0 run at the start of the four-minute overtime period to go ahead 62-57, but Schultz swished a three-pointer with 60 seconds left to bring Grand within two points, 62-60.
Then, with 30 seconds left to play, Grand was trailing by three points when Schultz missed a three-pointer that would’ve tied the game at 63. Cowboy senior Dylan Defa made 3-of-4 free-throw shots in the final seconds to keep the game out of reach.
Grantsville shot nearly twice as many free throws as Grand did during the game, converting 29-of-39, including 7-of-10 in the overtime period. The Red Devils were 17-of-21 from the line.
Schultz led Grand’s balanced scoring attack with 16 points, while Masen Ward added 15. Center Cameron Hoppensteadt scored 12 and penciled in a team-high eight rebounds. Williams added 11 points and five assists for Grand.
The loss dropped the Red Devils into the one-loss consolation bracket, where they faced the Morgan Trojans Friday afternoon.
Season comes to an end
The game was close during the first quarter, with Morgan taking an 18-17 lead after the first eight minutes of play. The Trojans then outscored Grand 21-14 during the second period to take a 39-31 halftime lead.
The Red Devils were unable to catch up during the second half, however, as Morgan coasted to a 68-56 victory.
Hoppensteadt had a big game for Grand, pouring in 24 points and grabbing six rebounds. He was the only Red Devil to score in double figures, however.
After Thursday’s win over Grand, Grantsville lost to eventual champion Manti in Friday’s semifinal game, but bounced back to beat Delta, 55-54, in the third-place game. Morgan went on to take the consolation game for fifth place by beating South Summit 50-41 on Saturday. In the 3A title game, Manti avenged two earlier season losses to South Sevier by beating the Rams, 63-50, for the championship.