RICHFIELD — Monticello's boys basketball players looked around near the end of their opening-round playoff game and saw their world collapsing.
Having led by as many 11 points earlier in the second half, the Buckaroos watched helplessly as Duchesne almost inevitably mounted a furious comeback to cut the deficit to just a point, 45-44, with 1:55 to go.
But over the final 115 seconds of Wednesday's contest, the Buckaroos found ways to hang on and gut out a huge postseason victory.
Center Dallin Duncan finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Monticello made just enough plays at both ends — and dodged a few bullets — to emerge with a 51-46 victory over the Eagles in the 1A boys basketball tournament Wednesday at the Sevier Valley Center.
"The best part about these kids is their heart," said Monticello coach Rhett Maughan. "There's not a lot of finesse but a lot of heart. They're competitors and winners. And when it comes down to it — when things get tough and tight — they don't back down. They step up."
At the end of what proved to be a tough and tight battle, Monticello indeed stepped up.
The Buckaroos had been in firm control when Duchesne closed the third quarter on a 7-0 run to close Monticello's lead to just four points at 39-35.
Duchesne kept coming and coming at Monticello in the fourth, but after getting within a point when Devan Jones made a free throw with 1:55 to go, the Buckaroos refused to let them get any closer.
Monticello got enough stops on defense and finished the game by making 4-of-6 free throws on offense.
"This year we've had some close games that have come down to the wire, but we keep pushing through," said Duncan. "Our motto's been, 'Find a way,' and we found a way there at the end."
Earlier in the game, it was Duncan who helped Monticello get going. He scored 11 of his 18 points in the first half and made big plays at both ends throughout for the Buckaroos.
According to Duncan, Monticello's stellar early play started at the defensive end.
"It kind of looked like they'd been scouting us pretty hard because our man offense wasn't quite clicking as well as we hoped it would," said Duncan. "So we just said, 'OK, we've got to start this off with defense.' It all started there."
Defense allowed Monticello to build a 39-28 lead before Duchesne came flying back late.
Not that Maughan — or anybody else inside the Sevier Valley Center — expected anything less from Duchesne High.15 comments on this story
"Duchesne has probably got the best coach in 1A, Stan Young," said Maughan. "He's been there 38 years, and I told 'em, 'Duchesne'll never give up.' They'll come at you — that's why they played in the state championship game last year — they just never give up."
Duchesne will rue its performance at the free-throw line, as the Eagles made just 4-of-11 from the charity stripe in the second half.