MORGAN — The Manti Templars entered their game against No. 5 Morgan as decided underdogs Friday night.
For one half, they hung with the bigger, physical Trojans. But in the second half it was all Morgan, as the Trojans used a third-quarter 21-2 run to push the home team to a big lead and eventual 81-50 win in the first round playoff win.
While the Trojans would outscore Manti 48-24 in the second half, Morgan coach Jim Wiscombe thought his players had a case of the jitters in the first half.
"We played a little tight tonight at the first of the game," he said. "Once we picked up our defensive pressure and pushed the ball up the court (in the second half), things opened up and we relaxed a little."
Coming out of halftime, the Trojans held a precarious seven-point lead at 33-26, and when Manti scored the initial basket in the quarter, the Trojan lead was cut to five points. That's when the Morgan defense took over, causing multiple Manti turn overs, which led to a handful of easy baskets for the Trojans. Morgan would go on a 21-0 run, led by senior Jared Brooks with 10 third-quarter points, and senior Dallin Schenk's six points in the quarter.
Sharp shooting from the 3-point line kept Manti in the game early on, lead by Brady Aste with three 3-point buckets and Kody Bailey with two buckets from beyond the arc. Aste would lead the Templars with 13 points, while Braden Jackson canned nine and Bailey finished with six.
Trojan senior center Dallin Schenk played even bigger than his 6-foot-4 frame after halftime, swatting a huge blocked shot, which led to a Jared Brooks layup on the other end. Schenk also banged down low with Jackson, forcing the Templar big man into two offensive fouls in the quarter. Schenk would step outside the arc to knock down a big 3-pointer from the right side to top off Morgan's 21-0 run in the third.
While disappointed with the Trojans' first half, Schenk knew what needed to happen for the Trojans to pull out the win.
"Defense and rebounding wins games," he said. "We had a very slow first half, but once we started playing 'D' and hitting the boards, things started to go our way."
While looking ahead to the second round, Wiscombe and Schenk both agreed it will be a dog fight against Richfield.
"It will be a tough game versus Richfield. We've seen them play, and it's the state tourney, where everyone is tough," Wiscombe said.
Added Schenk: "We will definitely have our hands full in the second round, but we know we can do it."
In a nice display of balanced scoring, silky-smooth senior Casey Evans led the Trojans with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field. Brooks added 17 on 8-of-13 shooting, while Schenk contributed 15 points. Evans and Schenk both hauled in seven rebounds on the night for the Trojans.
Bill Bateman, father of 5 daughters, enjoys covering Trojans athletics for the Morgan County News.