The synergy of this year’s Morgan High School boys basketball team was undeniable. With one common goal in mind, they were impossible to stop. They are the well deserved 2013 3A State Champions.
All season, the Trojans had proven themselves to be a clutch team under pressure. Seven games were won by five or fewer points including a few buzzer beaters and this three-day, fan-filled tournament was no exception. The Morgan team stepped onto the court each game with the swagger of a champion.
The week’s tournament began with the third seed Region 9 match up: the Cedar City High School Redmen. The boys walked out of the locker room at half-time with the score tied at 45. Then the Trojans began to pull away and never looked back. They controlled the momentum throughout the rest of the game. Despite a few nerves, the boys pulled out a 69-57 victory.
“[Cedar] had a slower paced game,” said team member Cameron Skinner of the opponent. “We have a really fast-paced game. We like to keep a quick tempo, and we just had to get into our rhythm and play.”
There were huge contributions from Camen Gray, Bridger Streadbeck, and Skinner with nine points each. Ben Saunders had an impressive match and shot 11 points hot off the bench. Cedar sent Jake Miles to the free throw line for 10 of his 16 points.
With that win, it was on to the semi-finals against the Wasatch High School Wasps.
During the thrilling semi-final match Friday night, the score zigzagged back and forth between the two teams. Morgan came alive at the top of the fourth quarter but as the clock counted down, the Wasps came back from a nine-point deficit to leave the score tied 50-50.
After the team returned from a time out, they put their plan into action. They waited for the opportune moment to finish the game.
With 2.9 seconds left, the ball was given to the hot-hand of the night, Jake Miles, who looked as though he was preparing to make a move. The anxious defense made the mistake of sending Miles to the foul line.
The Dee Events Center was on their feet in anticipation of the next two shots. With tension and pressure surrounding him, Miles sunk one, then two of his foul shots to give the Trojans their two-point lead.
In desperation Wasatch chucked the ball more than half way down the court as the buzzer rang. The ball missed the net and bounced off the hardwood floor. With this, the team was in the air celebrating their return to the state finals.
Jake Miles would make 20 points that night, followed by Garren Miles who added eight. Ten players put points on the board including Ben Saunders, Bridger Streadbeck, Camen Gray, Cameron Skinner, Hunter Stanford, KT Tibbits, Lantzen Toomer and Matt Murdock. It was an all-around group effort.
“A real advantage and strength we have in this year’s team is the depth,” said Coach Jim Wiscombe of the vast amount of scorers. The depth was evident.
With a season record of 23-2 and the hard-earned title of Region 11 Champions, Morgan had the intimidation factor on their side. Just a few hours earlier, Bear River defeated the Snow Canyon Warriors from the south. Not only did Bear River defeat Snow Canyon, they made a statement of finishing with an astounding 28 point lead. Although Morgan was able to defeat Bear River twice in region play, both games were decided by only one point.
Saturday night, the Morgan team walked into the gym focused and hungry for a win against Bear River High School. Their close-knit fans from the community surrounded them with eager support. The familiar foes visibly lacked the confidence Morgan was radiating.
Skinner urged, “We wanted to go out and prove that those two games [against Bear River in region] weren’t flukes and that we were the better team. We came out fired up against our rivals.”
It was game time and for the six seniors on the team, it was the last time they would ever step onto the court in a Morgan jersey.
From the moment the Trojans took the court, there was no stopping them as they outscored the Bears 18-8 in the first quarter.
The words of their head coach swirled in their heads, “You’ve got 32 minutes; in 32 minutes you could be state champions.”
Shots were draining the basket, but it was the Morgan defense that really stole the show.
The disciplined and well prepared team put visible pressure on the Bears and made it difficult for them to shoot. The previously consistent shot of Bear River was torn down, and almost nonexistent. Bear River’s top scorers were nowhere to be found.
The Trojans walked into the locker room at half time with a score of 26-14.
Senior Duane Johnson felt good about the upcoming half, “We all had a good amount of confidence in our ability and we knew how hard we had practiced for this.”
The third quarter was a blur. Bear River could not gain any momentum and shot only half of what Morgan was shooting.
The boys could feel it coming, “We were firing with tons of confidence,” Jake Miles said. “It was just fun.”
By the fourth quarter it was obvious that this game was a win for the Trojans. The Bears just couldn’t keep up with the speed and defensive ability of their opponents. Smart plays and key assists made the shot open for anyone. The team was not 14 separate players, but rather one combined force.
The clock was at one minute, then 30 seconds, and with the chant of their crowd, the team heard the countdown from the 10 remaining seconds. It was all happening, everything that they had worked for, and the 32 minutes they gave their all was about to pay off. Morgan High School’s basketball team had won their first state title in 39 years.
On the court, Miles kept thinking, “We did it. This is the last game, and we did it.”
A content Tibbits mused, “Not only are we done, but we are the best!”
The team was escorted home in true small-town fashion. Fire trucks and police vehicles lined the freeway and then the streets of Morgan all the way back to the high school with sirens blaring and horns honking in celebration of the victory.
Cheerleaders led the rest of the fans in familiar chants as the boys exited their bus and the entourage followed the team into the commons area of the school, where there was a joyous uproar. Every child there wanted an autograph or picture with their hometown heroes.
Coach Wiscombe is still in a daze from Saturday’s events, “I always hoped it would [end like this]. it was a dream. The dream finally came true. Finally, we did it. It’s a relief. Finally, we made it. I’m just so happy for the kids and the community.”
Wiscombe was quick to acknowledge the expertise of his other coaches who were vital in gaining wins this season. The help of three diligent managers was also mentioned and appreciated.
A beaming Wiscombe was seen driving to school Monday morning with the game net still around his neck in great pride.
It was the last Morgan game seniors KT Tibbits, Cameron Skinner, Duane Johnson, Jake Miles, Camen Gray, and Lantzen Toomer would play.
Johnson described it as “just a great way to end your last year with the team, with your friends. It’s a brotherhood.”
Toomer quickly added with a grin, “It’s so happy and reassuring that we are the best team in the state. We gave it all we could.”
Camen Gray said, “It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s like a dream come true. Ever since I was a little kid, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. It was one of my biggest goals and it’s nice to finally get it.”
Senior leader Jake Miles will represent Morgan as he continues his basketball career in college after an LDS mission. He finished his senior year with 618 points. He was selected All-Tournament MVP by the Deseret News. Sophomore Bridger Streadbeck was also selected for the All-Tournament team.
Next year, Morgan can look forward to a team full of state champion juniors and a returning sophomore as well. Hayden Garfield, Garren Miles, Hayden Murdock, Matt Murdock, Jordan Nelson, Ben Saunders, Hunter Stanford, and Bridger Streadbeck all saw significant playing time this season and are excited to keep Morgan basketball traditions strong.
The 2013 state championship exemplified the meaning of “team.” The humility of each player was shown as they continuously thanked the community, coaches and their teammates. To become No. 1 was “all for one and one for all.”