RICHFIELD For the first time in six years, Monticello is headed to the quarterfinal round of a boys state basketball tournament.
The Buckaroos set up a date with No. 2 Escalante in the quarterfinals by easily beating Wendover of Region 18, 76-40, Wednesday afternoon inside the Sevier Valley Center in the first round.
It's the first time Monticello has won an opening-round state tournament game since 2002.
Just how important was it to the Buckaroos?
"It's huge," said junior center Joseph Weatherford, whose team has progressed significantly since he and six junior teammates began seeing significant varsity minutes last year. "We"ve been dreaming about this since we were just little kids."
Like the other three winners on Monticello's side of the 1A bracket Panguitch, Rich and Escalante the Buckaroos won their first-round game convincingly.
Monticello raced out to a 20-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back.
Weatherford led all scorers with 24 points and impressively had 18 rebounds. Connor Frost (17) and Dalton Rogers (11) also finished in double-figures, and Daniel Torres added nine points and five assists.
Though there was plenty of talk beforehand about just strong Wendover's region, Region 18, would (or wouldn't), Monticello simply take care of business Wednesday.
"Even though it's Wendover and their region's not that strong, you still have to come out prepared, and you can't be scared that this is a college arena it's big, it's state, it's the first game of the state tournament,' said Weatherford.
"You just have to come out focused and ready no matter who you play, otherwise you can get upset easily."
Now Monticello's focus will shift to its quarterfinal contest against Escalante. First-year Monticello coach Rhett Maughan praised his team"s performance against Wendover but noted the Buckaroos must play much better in the next round.
"As funny as it may seem that we won by quite a margin, a lot of the real important fundamentals we broke down on," said Maughan. "(Against Escalante) we can't make those mistakes."
Victor DeSantiago paced Wendover with 21 points.