Victories last week against Skyline and Layton Christian Academy launched the Morgan Trojans’ boys’ basketball team into Region 13 play with a supreme amount of confidence.
Skyline, a 5A school in Millcreek, was first up for the Trojans on Jan. 4. It was an unusual game in that only four players scored for Morgan, but those who did were very impressive, guiding the Trojans to a convincing 74-58 road win. Leading the way was junior forward Trey Miles, who scored a season-high 27 points and grabbed five rebounds. Cade Russell added 20 points, including four 3-pointers, while Tyson Hurd contributed 16 points. Laine Carter chipped in with 11.
The very next day, MHS returned home to face the defending 2A state champion LCA Eagles. The Eagles had plenty of size and tons of athletic ability, but the Trojans were not intimidated. A strong second quarter gave Morgan a six-point lead at halftime. From there, the Trojans simply had to hang on. And hang on they did for a 79-74 victory.
Morgan led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter and then had to withstand a furious comeback attempt by Layton Christian.
“We just made plays when we needed to,” Morgan coach Brad Matthews said. “You know a team like (LCA) is going to make runs. And they did. They made shots and in that fourth quarter it was really hard for us to make stops. But we made a couple. And those couple of stops and defensive rebounds were huge because then we got fouled and came down and made some free throws. You can’t overemphasize the importance of just one stop.”
Fortunately for the Trojans, they’ve also got Cade Russell on the team. He scored 10 of his 15 points in the final period, including a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line when LCA was trying to foul their way back into the game.
“We had our ups and downs (in the fourth quarter),” Russell said. “But through all of it, we pulled it together. We had a couple big plays and were just playing good team ball. That’s what we’re good at.”
Three weeks ago, the Trojans had a similar close game against Maple Mountain. In that one, the Trojans fell apart down the stretch before losing in overtime. But Russell believes that experience helped Morgan out against Layton Christian when it looked like the Trojans might fumble another one away.
“That next practice after Maple Mountain, we went back and looked at what we did wrong and we fixed it,” Russell said. “Our main focus is to start finishing games, which is something we haven’t been good at. Tonight it showed and we finished this game off.”
Russell wasn’t the only hero of the night. Miles followed up his 27-point game with 19 against Layton Christian. He also had six rebounds. Carter duplicated his 11-point effort against Skyline with 11 more against LCA.
And then there was Stetson Anderson. The senior forward came off the bench to score 17 points, including five 3-pointers – all from the corner. Why LCA continued to leave him open is anyone’s guess.
“Stetson’s always been a shooter,” Matthews said. “That his strength and it’s fun to see him shoot the ball so well. That’s a huge boost off the bench for us.”
The two victories capped what was probably Morgan’s best week of the season.
“I can’t say enough about how these kids have played the last couple days,” Matthews said. “They’ve just shot the ball well and are playing really good team ball. They’re unselfish and are just playing tough.”
The Trojans (11-2 in preseason play) started Region 13 play on Wednesday against Summit Academy. That game will be recapped next week. But it’s safe to say that Matthew and Russell are feeling pretty good about how things are going for the team right now.
“I think we’re right where we want to be,” Matthews said. “We have things that we can get better at, but these kids are playing at a level that we want so that we can compete in this region. We have a really tough region. But I think we’re ready.”
“I think we’re in a good spot,” Russell added. “We finished off (the preseason) pretty good. The only thing was that Maple Mountain game that got us, but we learned from it. We still have our things to work on, but I think we’ll get it and we’ll be ready.”
The Trojans’ next home game is this Wednesday against longtime rival Grantsville. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.