The Grand County High School boys basketball team defeated Rowland Hall 63-44 in a play-in game at Orem on Saturday, Feb. 18. The win advances the Red Devils to play in the 2A state tournament this week. The victory marked the Red Devils’ first post-season win since at least 2000, breaking a streak of several early exits over the years.
Playing in the second of eight games held at Orem High School on Saturday, the Red Devils (16-6 overall) entered the contest as the No. 2 seed from Region 15, while the Rowland Hall Winged Lions (5-16) were the No. 3 seed from Region 14.
Nevertheless, Grand got off to a slow start, allowing Rowland Hall to take a 14-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“I think we started off nervous,” said GCHS head coach Scott Horton. “The boys didn’t sleep well, got up early, and it took them a while to find their rhythm offensively.”
In the second quarter, Grand managed to shut down Rowland Hall defensively, going on a 16-2 run that gave the Red Devils a 29-16 halftime lead.
“Our defense really stopped them,” Horton said. “We were bigger than they were, and faster than they were. It was a solid, all-around effort.”
Rowland Hall managed to rally with a 17-10 run during the third quarter, but Grand eventually pulled away by scoring 24 points in the fourth quarter and putting the game well out of reach.
Sophomore center Cameron Hoppensteadt scored 15 points to lead the Red Devils, while senior forward Kenyon Birdwell and junior guard Alec Williams each contributed 13 points.
The Red Devils converted 21-of-54 field goal attempts during the game (39 percent), but were only 5-of-21 from 3-point range (24 percent). They were a solid 14-of-17 from the free throw line (82 percent).
“We didn’t shoot that well from outside,” said coach Horton. “And we didn’t really play strong all four quarters. That’s something we’re going to have to change this week if we’re going to win at the state tournament.”
All eight of Saturday’s winners advance to play in the 2A state tournament at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield starting Thursday, Feb. 23 and concluding Saturday, Feb. 25.
Grand will open the tournament with the first game on Thursday, starting at 9:30 a.m. against Summit Academy. The Bears, who are located in Bluffdale, finished the regular season tied with North Summit for the Region 16 title with an 8-2 region record, 16-7 overall, and entered the tournament as a No. 1 seed.
The winner of Grand vs. Summit Academy will then play on Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the winner between South Sevier and Layton Christian. The other two games Thursday in the other bracket are South Summit competing against Waterford and Emery vs. North Summit.
Horton says he likes the Red Devils’ chances at state.
“We’ve shown that we are capable of playing with the best teams in the state,” he said. “We hope to come out strong every game and still be playing on Saturday. That’s the plan.”
ByBy Jeff Richards