RICHFIELD — The Rich Rebels may not have been playing for a state title Saturday afternoon, but they still found a reason to give their final game their best effort.
"It was pretty hard, especially the first half," said one of the team's three seniors, John Acree, after the Rebels earned third place with a 59-40 win over Monticello. "After that, I was like, 'We need to win this; we need to end on a win.’ ”
And it's that mentality that has made the Rebels successful this season, said head coach Ashely Brown.
"They've always been winners," he said, his voice hoarse from the strain of coaching at the state tournament. "They're just willing to jump back from the defeat and get ready to go again. It's not easy. They wanted to be in the next game, but after you lose you don't have a choice. So you might as well come back and play well."
Part of what's helped them give their best effort — regardless of what's on the line — is that they play for each other.
"They've been a great team-oriented, willing-to-do-anything-for-each-other group of kids," Brown said. "And they've been great to each other, very coachable. They're willing to listen and do what you ask them to do."
Not every team is as easily convinced to play team basketball. It is much easier to try and be a star.
"Some teams are very selfish and this team is nothing like that," said Brown. "They're willing to do anything for you. It's definitely the kids' personality, but that's also something we preach all the time. You've got to play as a team."
The Buckaroos were led by Jake Duncan, who scored 10 points and earned five rebounds before fouling out of the game. Gunnar Hollingsworth added seven points and four rebounds in the loss that means fourth-place for Monticello.
Senior Kaden Thomson, who scored two points, earned four assists and two steals, said his best memory this season was beating Duchesne at their place.
"That was the highlight of my season," he said.
It was his work on the court that taught him how to get what he wants in life.
"To work hard in everything you do," he said of what the sport has taught him. "Just to put as much effort as you can into everything."Comment on this story
Fellow senior Austin Groll, who added six points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, said there is almost too much to list when he considers about his favorite moments.
"There's a lot — bus rides, picking on the underclassmen, playing Mario cart on the DS-es, practicing, just everything, soaking it all in with the coaches. Just everything."
As for what he's learned under Brown's tutelage, he said through tears, "Hard work, definitely, that's what the coaches always stress. Some nights your shots aren't falling, you throw the ball away but you can always make it up on defense and hard work."