The Grand County High School boys basketball team snapped a three-game losing streak with an exhilarating win over bitter rival San Juan at home and then split a weekend road trip, defeating North Sanpete and falling to Manti. Following that stretch of games, the Red Devils’ record stands at 12-5 overall and 3-5 in region, which lands the squad in sixth place in Region 15 with four regular season games left on the docket.
The San Juan Broncos came to Moab on Wednesday, Jan. 23 to play in front of stands packed with energetic fans. It started as a tight contest and remained so through all 32 minutes. Even when Grand built a sizeable lead, San Juan scraped back into the game. San Juan opened the scoring with a quick layup after winning the jump ball, but Grand senior Tyson Horton responded with a tip-in on an offensive rebound on the next possession. After trading a few buckets, Horton gave Grand a bit of breathing room by sinking a corner three to go ahead 10-6 and cause San Juan to call a timeout. Both teams implemented a full-court press, which kept the game moving at high tempo. Senior center Cameron Hoppensteadt converted an and-one to put Grand ahead 17-14 at the end of the first.
Grand turned up the defensive intensity in the second quarter, holding the Broncos to just 11 points in the period. Senior Connor Guerrero entered the game when Hoppensteadt picked up his second foul and got right to work in the post. Guerrero scored 11 points in the quarter, thanks in part to some good assists from teammates Nolan Ramirez and Kevin Park. Snappy defensive rotations by Grand limited open looks for the Broncos as San Juan struggled to find the bottom of the net, especially from three-point range. After their strong showing in the second, the Red Devils carried a 37-25 lead into the locker room.
San Juan started the third quarter strong, forcing some turnovers and getting out in transition. With less than four minutes remaining in the quarter, the Broncos had narrowed the margin to just three points. The Red Devils then went on a tear at the end of the third quarter. Grand’s 13-0 run to close the quarter featured a trey from Horton, both Hoppensteadt and Guerrero doing damage in the post and stellar team defense, and put the Red Devils up 59-43 heading into the final period.
San Juan’s offense found its rhythm in the fourth as the Broncos started getting to the rim, sinking threes and slowly whittling away the lead. Despite giving up 36 points in the final frame, Grand was able to hold off San Juan’s late run. Grand was up by just two points with less than 30 seconds remaining when San Juan was whistled for a flagrant foul that sent Kevin Park to the line for two shots and returned possession to the Red Devils. The decisive moment allowed Grand to go up by five and while San Juan sank another three to keep things interesting, Grand was able to hold out for an 84-79 victory.
Guerrero had the standout performance of the game, scoring 25 points while shooting over 70 percent from the field and grabbing 11 boards. Three other Devils reached double digits with Hoppensteadt adding 19 points, Horton scoring 15 and Kevin Park chipping in 14. Ramirez only had four points without a basket from the field, but his team-high seven assists and activity on the defensive end were essential in getting the win.
The team only had one day of rest before heading to Mt. Pleasant on Friday, Jan. 25 for a game with the North Sanpete Hawks. The Red Devils got off to a good start, building a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter. Grand went into halftime up 44-28, but the team didn’t let off the gas. Stifling defense from Grand limited the Hawks to just 20 second-half points as the Red Devils coasted to an 84-48 victory.
Grand shot over 50 percent from the field and sank 8 of 16 three-pointers while only turning the ball over three times and holding the Hawks to a frigid 31 percent field goal percentage. Four Red Devils reached double-digits against North Sanpete. Hoppensteadt led the way with 25 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots. Kevin Park scored 16, Ramirez put up 11 and Horton penciled in 12 points without missing a shot, going a perfect 3-for-3 from deep.
The Red Devils were unable to carry their momentum into the next game against the Manti Templars on Saturday, Jan. 26. Grand got off to a dismal start, falling behind 24-5 by the end of the first quarter. The team worked out the kinks and scored 25 in the second, but Manti posted another 24 points to go ahead 48-30 at halftime.
Grand chipped five points off the lead by winning the third quarter 24-19. Down 13 heading into the period, Grand’s offense stalled. The Red Devils held the Templars to 15 in the fourth but only put up 14 of their own points and ended up losing 82-68.
Grand’s 47 percent shooting percentage doesn’t jump out of the box score, but it was the team’s 20 turnovers that really crippled its efforts. Ramirez put up 23 points on 60 percent shooting, but he turned the ball over seven times while only dishing out four assists. Grand’s big men, Hoppensteadt and Guerrero, reached double digits, scoring 14 and 11 respectively. Hoppenstead also came up with 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
Grand has a three-game homestand ahead and then a trip to Blanding to close the regular season. First, the team has a weekend back-to-back with South Sevier and Richfield. The Red Devils will take on the Rams at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1 and then face the Wildcats at 4 p.m. the next day. Grand’s final home game of the season will be played against the Emery Spartans at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 6 with senior recognition before the varsity game. Hopefully the home court advantage will help Grand avenge three losses from earlier this season. The Red Devils’ regular season ends on Saturday, Feb. 9 against the San Juan Broncos.