[Photo: Morgan senior Laine Carter shouts instructions to teammates during the Trojans game against Manti.]
Both of Morgan High’s basketball teams traveled to St. George last weekend with dreams of bringing home a 3A state championship. And both teams even won their final games on the last day of the tournament. Unfortunately, both the boys and girls lost their first game of the competition to finish in fifth place overall.
Morgan’s boys, in particular, returned home with thoughts of what might have been. The Region 13 champs were considered by many to be the class of 3A and were favorites to capture the title. Instead, the Trojans ran into Manti in the quarterfinal round. The Templars were unstoppable in the fourth quarter and came from behind to stun Morgan, 63-56.
To make matters worse, the Trojans lost starting center Kaleb Calderwood to a gruesome ankle injury with 4:05 left to play and Morgan trailing by six. As Calderwood went down, there was a loud, sustained gasp from the crowd, particularly when he lifted his leg to see what was wrong. His left foot was turned far inward at an unnatural angle, revealing a badly dislocated ankle.
Calderwood laid on his back on the far end of the court for several minutes while trainers and coaches tried to determine the best course of action. Luckily, there were trained medical professionals among the Morgan supporters. One of those was Jody Carter, father of senior guard Laine Carter. After getting appraised of the situation, it was Jody who grabbed Calderwood’s foot and popped the ankle back into place. He didn’t play again the rest of the weekend.
Unfortunately, when Calderwood went down, Morgan’s championship hopes went with him.
“You never want to see anything like that happen,” Morgan coach Brad Matthews said. “He’ll eventually be fine, but it was hard to see that.”
Manti ended up winning the 3A state title, knocking off Grantsville in the semifinals and then South Sevier in the championship game.
Meanwhile, Morgan dropped into the consolation bracket, where it handily defeated Grand County on Friday and then Region 13 rival South Summit on Saturday to claim fifth place. Senior guard Cade Russell finished his high school career in impressive fashion, averaging 22.7 points for the three tournament games, including a 23-point, eight-rebound, six-assist, four-steal performance against Grand.
Fellow senior Laine Carter went off for 19 points against Manti, while Stetson Anderson had 13 points and 11 rebounds against Grand.
“If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that we’d finish in fifth place and have a record of 22-3, I might have said, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty good,’” Matthews said after the final game. “But I haven’t totally gotten over (the loss to Manti). That will hurt for a long, long time.”
The Trojans, should field a very strong team again next season, led by Calderwood, Trey Miles and Tyson Hurd.
“I’m excited,” Matthews said. “Three starters coming back along with some young kids that are talented. We’re excited to see how they mesh.”
On the girls side, the Lady Trojans knew they were big underdogs in the quarterfinals against Richfield. Led by brilliant guard Emma Jones, the Wildcats were one of two teams widely anticipated to reach the championship game – Emery being the other.
Against MHS, Jones managed only four points through the first three quarters thanks to the suffocating defense of senior guard Morgan Cragun. Unfortunately, the Trojans were unable to get any kind of offense going against the taller Wildcats. The Trojans made just 9-of-31 shots (29 percent) from the field and hit only 5-of-14 free throws. They were also outrebounded 24-16.
Down the stretch, the Trojans were forced to foul, so Jones ended up leading all scorers with 12 points as the Wildcats captured a 38-26 victory to send Morgan into the consolation bracket.
“Richfield is a great team,” Morgan coach Kade Morrell said. “I thought we played tremendous defense against them. We just struggled scoring.”
As expected, Richfield and Emery met up in the championship game, with Emery earning its first state title since 2011.
In Morgan’s two consolation games, the girls played much better, as they topped Judge Memorial, 45-29, and then South Sevier, 38-22, to capture fifth place.
Cragun led the Trojans (15-11 overall) with just over eight points per game during the three games. Fellow senior Kayden Jorgensen was also impressive, averaging 5.7 points off the bench, including eight points against South Sevier despite suffering from the effects of bronchitis. Top-scoring seniors Lisa Blazzard, Jaci Jensen and Marcie Stapley all played well at times during the tournament, while struggling at others, which was kind of a microcosm of the Trojans’ entire season.
While feeling a tinge of disappointment for not advancing a little further in the tournament, Morrell was extremely proud of the effort his team gave.
“There’s only one team that doesn’t have any losses in this tournament,” Morrell said. “It always feels good to leave a winner. I’m proud of these girls. It’s hard to lose anytime, whether it’s the quarters or semis, or whatever. It’s hard to bounce back, but I thought these girls played some very good basketball the last two days.”
While the Lady Trojans will be losing seven seniors this year, including their entire starting five, there are some very talented sophomores and juniors who will keep MHS competitive for years to come.
“We’ve had great leadership with these seniors,” Morrell said, “and we’ve also got a real good group of young girls. These seniors have taken them under their wings and loved them just like family. It’s been a great year.”
Morgan junior Kaleb Calderwood is helped off the court by his father and assistant coach Skyler Benson after suffering a serious ankle injury.