One win down. Can they come up with three more?
With a much-too-close 48-43 win over upset-minded Richfield at Wasatch High School on Saturday, the Morgan boys’ basketball team is now just three wins from their first state championship since 2014.
Cade Russell scored 18 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists to lead the Trojans to their 20th win of the season. It was a nice bounce-back game for Russell, who suffered through probably his worst performance of the year on the last day of the regular season, when he scored just five points against Judge Memorial – on senior night, no less.
“I knew I was ready, coming off the worst shooting game I’ve ever had,” Russell said. “I figured I’d come in and start shooting it, and once I saw the first one go down, then I was good.”
Trey Miles added 13 points, Laine Carter contributed 10, and Tyson Hurt provided some incredible full-court and perimeter defense, as the Trojans overcame a poor shooting night from the free throw line. Morgan went just 12-for-21 from the line, which allowed the Wildcats to stay close and nearly overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit.
“Early in the game we were missing some shots at the rim, and then just free throw after free throw,” Trojans’ coach Brad Matthews said. “We haven’t shot like that all year. But it’s nerves.”
But for Matthews, any win in the playoffs is a good win. And as one of the favorites to win the state title, he knows that every team will be bringing their best effort against the Trojans.
“We go into the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead and all of a sudden it’s four,” Matthews said. “(Richfield) just didn’t quit. But neither did we. Our kids did what they needed to do to win that game, and right now, that’s all you’ve got to do is win. Who cares how you do it. Just win the game and move on. I’d rather have won it by 20, but as long as we win, I don’t care how.”
Morgan now moves on to face Manti, the third-seeded team out of Region 14, in the quarterfinal round of the 3A tournament. The games resumed yesterday (too late to meet the deadline for today’s paper) at Dixie State University.
If the Trojans (20-2 overall) manage to get past Manti, they’ll play in the semifinals on Friday at 9:30 p.m. The championship game is slated to begin on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Russell is well aware that neither he nor any of his teammates have ever been this deep in the playoff. But he doesn’t feel any added pressure to bring home a title.
“We’re thinking it’s just basketball,” Russell said. “We’ve been doing it our whole lives. We just want to have fun, play defense, and rebound, and focus on the next team that we play.”
“We’re excited,” Matthews added. “The kids are just ready, ready to take the next step down in St. George, feel that atmosphere, and everything that goes with it. But most important, I think they’re ready to go and win some basketball games.”