Top 4 Seeds
#1 Manti (20-2, 8-0) Region 14 Champion – If you watch Manti or take a peek at the stat sheet, there is not one thing or one person that will immediately jump out at you. However, the squad hangs its hat on being fundamentally sound and extremely deep. The success of Coach Devin Shakespear and his system speaks for itself and the Templars remain characteristically unselfish. Manti averages 21.3 assists per game led by Larson Pogroszewski with 6.2 per night. Reggie Frischknecht, Dylan Anderson and Kayson Douglas lead the team with 12.4, 12.1 and 11.9 points per game, respectively. Pogroszewski is next with over nine points on average.
Again, the Templars’ depth is one of their biggest assets. There is little to no drop off between the first 10-12 players on the roster. Manti has and will employ full hockey subs throughout the game. This strategy has killed the opposing team slowly as the Templars constantly have fresh legs. That allows Manti to pull away from teams in the second half and could be especially vital in a three-day tournament.
Perhaps the Templars’ Achilles’ heel is their height, or lack thereof. Manti is not especially tall, meaning long, lengthy teams with a dominating big could pose trouble for the Templars. But even then, the opposition will need to play a near perfect game to outlast Manti for four quarters.
Key Games: vs #2 Richfield 71-40 W, vs #5 Morgan (neutral) 81-48 W, vs #7 Juab 69-60 W, at #7 Juab 54-47 W
#2 Richfield (15-5, 6-2) Region 12 2nd Place – The Wildcats have put together another excellent season with 15 wins. Richfield is a lot like Manti in the fact that the Wildcats play as a team and find success by operating within their system. Miles Barnett (Jr.) leads the team with almost 13 points per game followed by Griffin Wayman (So.) and Gage Yardley (So.) with over 10 points per game each.
The Wildcats could argue they are more battle tested than any team in the field, registering the highest Opponents Win Percentage. That experience will be crucial to an overwhelmingly young team. The Wildcats only have one senior on the squad, leaving a handful of juniors and sophomores to play meaningful minutes. The lack of experience has hurt the Wildcats down the stretch in close games, especially against the top teams in the tournament. That could explain why they have beat some top teams, but lost to others.
Richfield will not run someone off the court, but the Wildcats play extremely hard. Their success has come by playing tenacious defense and fighting for every rebound, especially on the offensive end. The Wildcats do not want to get in a shootout with anyone. They would much prefer a 45-40 game where they can dictate the pace of play.
Key Games: at #1 Manti 71-40 L, vs #3 Emery 67-64 W, at #3 Emery 68-63 (OT) L, vs #5 Morgan 48-42 L, at #7 Juab 54-51 W
#3 Emery (16-4, 7-1) Region 12 Champion – Another year older, another year wiser. After maintaining its young core, the Spartans have shown great improvement, especially in the turnover department, and battled through a tough Region 12 schedule to take the title.
This team can score in a heartbeat and attack the opposition at every level. Junior guard Luke Justice leads the team with 13.6 points per game and can drive and penetrate or stop and pop. Talon Tuttle is a deadeye from outside, shooting 44% from three. He chips in another 12.4 points per game. Then, there is Wade Stilson, who is a jack of all trades. He averages 12.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 3.8 steals per game. His length provides a matchup problem on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
And if that is not enough, Emery’s senior big, Brett Rasmussen, has shown the ability to take over games. He has put highlight-reel slam dunks on tape this year and averages over nine points and nine rebounds per game. Even though he is a double-double machine, he has the tendency to disappear for minutes at a time.
Emery also has key role players that can step up and make an impact. The Spartans, at times, struggle to get into an offensive flow where long scoring droughts can occur. If this team is clicking on all cylinders, they can be trouble for anyone.
Key Games: vs #2 Richfield (OT) 68-63 W, at #2 Richfield 67-64 L, at #5 Morgan 74-66 L
#4 Grantsville (16-6, 6-2) Region 13 Champion – The Cowboys have one of the most experienced teams of the tournament, bolstering six seniors. They are led by the two-headed monster of Brigham Mulford and Gabe Mouritsen, who each average over 13 points per game. The former also distributes the ball well with over four assists per night. Grantsville is another team with depth on its side as many role players step up and play meaningful minutes.
The Cowboys also shoot the ball at a high clip. Over the course of the season, Grantsville is converting 43% of its shots from the floor and 37 percent from beyond the arc. Cache Cooper is a long ball shooter, shooting 45% from outside.
While Grantsville does not have a dominating post presence this season, the Cowboys remain a scrappy team. If you let them get comfortable, they can catch fire and start scoring at will from outside. Strangely enough, Grantsville has not played any of the top three teams, but did play #5 Morgan twice and won each contest.
Key Games: vs #5 Morgan 46-40 W, at #5 Morgan 53-38 W, at #7 Juab 44-41
The Rest of the Field
Without a single upset last weekend, all top eight seeds remain. That will provide several intriguing quarterfinal-matchups, including #4 Grantsville vs #5 Morgan. The Trojans were 0-2 against the Cowboys in the regular season, losing 53-38 at home and 46-40 on the road. It is worth noting that Morgan has wins over #2 Richfield and #3 Emery, meaning the Trojans have shown the ability to beat top-ranked teams. Will Grantsville continue to have Morgan’s number or will the Trojans defeat the Cowboys when it matters most? It would be safe to assume that Morgan will need to top 40 points in order to pull off the upset, something the Trojans have yet to do against the stingy Cowboy defense. If the Trojans can get hot from outside and put together a couple of runs, like they did against Carbon, they could be moving on to the semis.
#6 Summit Academy could pose problems for #3 Emery as the Bears are well-coached and play with a lot of heart. Bryson Ottley leads the team with almost 17 points per game while Sherlock Padmore adds another 10 points. The Bears have only lost four games all year, doing so primarily on the defensive end. Points have been hard to come by for Summit Academy and they will need their best defensive effort to slow down the Spartans’ high-powered offense.
#7 Juab has been putting it together as of late. Other than their two losses to #1 Manti, the Wasps have not dropped a game in the year 2023. Juab is 9-2 in that span and comes into the quarterfinals with a lot of momentum after coming back to beat South Summit in an overtime thriller. The Wasps are led by sophomore Austin Park and Ryker Richards (Sr.) with 14.6 points and 13.4 points per game, respectively. The quarterfinal contest against #2 Richfield will be a rematch of the season opener where the Wildcats won by three in Juab. Both teams have a traditions of excellence and are well-coached. It could come down to which team can control the pace of play as the Wasps would like to get out and run while the Wildcats are more comfortable slowing it down and playing half-court sets.
#8 Canyon View is the third Region 12 team remaining, showing the talent and depth of the region. In addition, the Falcons come into the quarterfinals as one of the toughest teams to predict. They have had moments where they look unstoppable, but it has been difficult to consistently put their best product on the court. Chad Hartman and Andrew Barnes are Canyon View’s top scorers, but many others have shown the ability to get hot. The Falcons will need to put together their best four quarters if they want to knock off the technicians of #1 Manti. Canyon View has certainly displayed the firepower to do so, but the question is, as it has been all season, can the Falcons string together four straight quarters of quality basketball?