RIVERTON — Morgan’s 0-5 start wasn’t indicative of the expectation the defending 3A champions had become accustomed to in recent years, and it intended to showcase its restored quality of play at the Riverton Holiday Tournament.
The Trojans reeled off five consecutive victories, including upending host school Riverton, to return to .500. However, after competing on the national stage in Las Vegas, Timpview had something to prove, too.
The Thunderbirds announced their legitimacy with a resounding 73-55 win in the championship game at Riverton High on New Year’s Eve.
“For our guys, it gives them a little bit of momentum,” Timpview first-year coach Kevin Santiago said about how winning a preseason tournament benefit programs. “We’re trying to come together and get my methodology and influence into their heads. So, it gives them momentum going into region.”
Timpview opened the first quarter on a 7-0 run courtesy of an underneath layup by Gabe Reid, a straightaway 3-pointer by Riley Corbin and a breakaway dunk by sophomore Gavin Baxter. Morgan reluctantly used its second timeout to stunt another 6-2 run less than four minutes later.
Corbin finished with a game-high 17 points, including hitting five of Timpview’s 10 3-pointers, while Reid, Baxter and Dave Wright all reached the double-figure plateau. Garren Miles and Hunter Stanford poured in 14 points apiece for Morgan.
“I tell our guys I don’t care who scores,” Santiago said. “I want us to shoot the ball in rhythm. First guy that has a real solid, in rhythm shot, knock it down. We could probably go nine guys deep and be pretty tough.”
Miles, Corbin and Reid were named to the all-tournament team and Baxter was named the tournament MVP.
“He’s so teachable,” Santiago said of Baxter. “This guy is going to be special. He’s learning to keep his hands up without fouling; he’s getting rebounds — he’s mentally tough. Between Las Vegas and now, (his teammates) know that he can play. Now the sophomore is part of the team.”
The Trojans early on were content to shoot from the perimeter to counteract the obvious size differential in the interior but continued to miss fairly satisfying looks at the basket, which allowed Timpview to build a 22-8 lead after the first eight minutes.
In the second quarter, Morgan returned to its screen-based offense, but it already faced an uphill battle. The Trojans eventually shaved the deficit to single digits, 33-24, on Jordan Nelson’s trey, but on the ensuing trip down the court, Corbin exchanged the 3 with one for the T-Birds.
Late in the third quarter, Timpview extended its cushion to 20 points on Corbin’s fourth 3-pointer of the night. The lead ballooned to as much as 27.