CEDAR CITY — Whoever coined the sports adage, “Defense wins championships,” has never watched Manti play basketball.
The No. 1 Templars reclaimed their spot at the top of the 3A mountain with a ridiculously dominant tournament run and capped it off with an 88-58 blowout of No. 7 Juab to claim the 3A boys basketball state championship. It’s the fourth state title for Manti since 2016 and the third title since they joined 3A in 2018.
After going undefeated against 3A competition in the regular season, the Templars burned through the playoff bracket, winning their second round, quarterfinal and semifinal games by an average margin of 17 points.
Then, going up against the team that had played them closer than anyone else in 3A this season, Manti put on a clinic and ran away from the Wasps from the tip, opening the game with a 15-0 run. Juab never got closer than 9 points the whole game.
“I’m just beyond proud of their efforts and commitment,” Manti coach Devin Shakespear said. “I love these boys with everything like they’re family. For them to step up and execute the way they did, it’s just a stamp of success on a well-deserved season. This was a special group.”
Senior guard Kayson Douglas had taken a step back in his scoring average this season in comparison to when he was a junior, but he ended his career on the highest note possible, posting a game-high 26 points on 8-10 from the field, including going 8-8 at the free-throw line.
“I felt amazing,” Douglas said. “I gave it my all, and that’s all you can do. I’m glad we came out on top.”
The Templar offense has thrived for years on sharing the ball, Douglas said, and this game was no different. Manti totaled 21 assists and had four players in double figures. Senior Christian Hansen went off for 17 points on 8-9 shooting. Seniors Dylan Anderson and Larson Pogroszewski scored 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Shakespear had an early inclination of what was going to go down when the Templars prepared for the biggest game of their lives. There seemed to be very little stress to go around.
“They came into this game looser than they did the first time we played (Juab),” Shakespear said. “They came in and did what we do. … They didn’t withdraw.”
To add to a dominant season for Manti, Shakespear has another stat to his name that is almost fear-inducing to think about if you’re another 3A coach: Manti’s seven-year head coach is 4-0 in state championship games.
“We’re very blessed,” he said. “Very fortunate to have boys who believe in what I’m doing, what they’re doing, and who want to fight every day and be proud of what we’re trying to do.”
Sophomore Austin Park led the Wasps with 16 points, while senior Payton Park had 14 points and senior Ryker Richards had 10 points.
Manti’s run to begin the game made it pretty clear how things were going to go, but the Wasps clamped down on defense as much as they could, notably putting heaps of coverage on junior Reggie Frischknecht, who leads the Templars in scoring.
A couple of 3-pointers from Pogroszewski kept the Juab perimeter defense guessing, and while Frischknecht was kept down with stiff interior defense, Hansen showed up big in the first period with 10 points on layups. The Templars ended the first quarter on a 6-0 run and held a massive lead, 27-11.
Going into the second quarter, Juab started to pick up the pace and matched Manti’s high-octane offense, even outscoring them through the quarter, 24-22.
But Manti stayed ahead by double digits throughout thanks to an offensive explosion from Douglas. The senior scored 14 of his 22 first-half points in the second quarter, including a 3-pointer from well behind the arc.
The Templars kept up the heat and maintained a 49-35 lead at halftime. Douglas’s 22 points led the Templars at the half, while Park led Juab with 11 points.
Juab went tit-for-tat with the Templars in the third quarter, making it competitive enough that Shakespear took longer than usual to employ his typical substitution strategy of sending all the backups in at once for two minutes. When the Wasps got within 10, the starters came right back out within a minute and owned the remainder of the quarter to take a domineering 17-point lead into the fourth.
With the game virtually in hand, the “I Believe” chant began from the Manti crowd with over six minutes remaining.
Manti finished the season with an impressive 24-2 record, their best mark since a one-loss season in 2019-20.
3A All-Tournament Team
MVP — Reggie Frischknecht, Manti
Bryson Ottley, Summit Academy
Larson Pogroszewski, Manti
Kayson Douglas, Manti
Austin Park, Juab
Gabe Mouritsen, Grantsville