Morgan entered the first round of the state boys basketball tournament last Saturday as the number one seed, earning the privilege to play at home against the Hawks of North Sanpete, a number four seed from Region 12. The game was closer than it ever should have been even though the Morgan boys eventually pulled away from North Sanpete.
North Sanpete scored first. Morgan then traded baskets with them during the opening minutes of play. After the Trojans forced three consecutive turnovers with their full-court pressure, North Sanpete called timeout to regroup. Every time Morgan started to pull away, North Sanpete fought off the attack. After another North Sanpete timeout, the quarter ended with Morgan leading 20-15.
Shooting percentages characterized the second quarter, which continued to keep the game close. Morgan shot much more poorly than average with a notable drought from behind the arc. On the other side of the court, North Sanpete found an unusually large number of buckets from low percentage situations and ended up with high percentage results. From sloppy off-balance shots and fade-away jumpers, to contested shots in heavy traffic, as well as tipped balls, the Hawks kept converting on their offensive opportunities to keep them in the game—only down by a basket at the half, 34-32.
Halftime was not long enough to disperse the frustration settling across the Morgan players. The third quarter became uncharacteristically chippy with athletes from both teams pushing the envelope between aggressive play and emotional reciprocity. By the end of the quarter, Morgan was hanging onto a slim lead by a score of 50-46. The mood in the gym was somber as Morgan’s 12-game winning streak felt threatened.
Then the fourth quarter happened, which changed everything.
The final period started with a surge for Morgan as they hit two consecutive three-pointers by Garren Miles and Matt Murdock respectively. North Sanpete used their final two timeouts in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but the only outcome was five quick fouls on North Sanpete players and more points on the board for Morgan. The Trojans were playing like a championship team and the Hawks knew they didn’t have the staying power. Although the final score showed MHS on top by a comfortable margin of 70-52, the majority of the game was much closer.
One of Morgan’s remarkable strengths this year is how well they play as a team. Saturday’s effort was no exception—Morgan’s depth makes them difficult to shut down. Difference makers in the game included Bridger Streadbeck, who led Morgan with 18 points and five rebounds. Garren Miles ended with 14 points. Ben Saunders and Hunter Stanford each added 10 points. Point guard Matt Murdock ended with five steals and nine points.
By the time this article goes to press, the Trojans will have already played the Bear River Bears in the quarterfinals at SUU. If they won this game last night, they will play in the semifinals at SUU tonight against the winner of the Pine View and Payson game.
Good luck Morgan!