OGDEN — For the several thousand Morgan High School fans who braved brutal driving conditions and ventured down I-84 Saturday evening, the school’s boys basketball team made sure their journey was well worth the treacherous drive.
Twenty-four hours after No. 1 Morgan survived a major semifinal scare from Wasatch, it had more than enough left in the tank, overwhelming Bear River from the opening whistle on its way to a convincing 58-44 victory in the 3A championship game at the Dee Events Center.
The victory clinched Morgan’s first boys basketball state title since 1974.
“Not winning it for 39 years, this is really exciting. We’re glad we can bring it to the community and make a name for ourselves,” said Morgan guard Lantzen Toomer.
After Morgan swept Bear River in region play with 76-75 and 82-81 victories, the highly anticipated third meeting ended up being incredibly anticlimactic.
Morgan never trailed and led by as many as 24 points early in the fourth quarter. Bear River, meanwhile, surprisingly could never get into an offensive rhythm a night after scoring 83 points in a semifinal win over Snow Canyon.
No one was immune to the struggles for Bear River, including star player Wade Miller. He scored 28 and 38 points against Morgan earlier this year, but only made 2 of 10 shots Saturday and finished with five points a night after scoring 25.
Morgan’s defense deserved a lot of the credit.
“I think our kids worked really hard and our press bothered them. We tried to keep the pressure on them the whole game. I think it wore them down,” said coach Jim Wiscombe, whose team forced Bear River into 17 turnovers and 34 percent shooting.
“We all have different roles as players. Mine is mostly defense. I studied him a lot and we went out and got it done,” said Toomer.
Unlike Friday’s semifinal when Morgan fell behind early against Wasatch, it came out ready to roll against Bear River, particularly Jake Miles. He scored seven of his team’s first nine points and finished with nine in the opening quarter as the Trojans jumped out to an 18-8 lead after the first quarter.
Morgan increased the advantage to 26-14 by halftime, and the third quarter — which has been the team’s specialty all year — is where it did the most damage, outscoring Bear River 21-11.
“The kids just came out and got after it and worked hard. I just thought we had a lot more energy tonight,” said Wiscombe, who's been Morgan’s head coach for 27 years “Those first two battles, they were dog fights and we won both of them by one point. Beating a really good team like that three times in a row, I was paranoid about that.”
He had reason to be worried after Bear River shot 53 percent in the semifinals, but the momentum didn’t last as the Bears were denied their first state since 2009.
3A Boys All-Tournament Team
MVP — Jake Miles, Morgan
Wade Miller, Bear River
Bridger Streadbeck, Morgan
Chandler Gines, Snow Canyon
Kody King, Bear River
Jeff Murdock, Wasatch