Seventh-grade boys take second in T-Bird Winter Classic
by Jeff Richards
contributing writer
Mar 07, 2013 | 1659 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alec Williams looks to pass during the GCMS A team’s second tournament game against the Gallup, N.M., Lobos. Photo by Jeff Richards
Alec Williams looks to pass during the GCMS A team’s second tournament game against the Gallup, N.M., Lobos. Photo by Jeff Richards
The Grand County Middle School seventh-grade basketball team took second place in the Thunderbird Winter Classic invitational tournament in Moab Feb. 22 and 23.

According to GCMS head coach Conrad Yanito, the two-day event featured teams from Price, Blanding, and Gallup, N.M., as well as two teams from GCMS – the A and C squads.

Grand’s A team scored a close 32-30 win over Price in its first game Friday. Yanito said the T-Birds were behind by three points at the half, but rallied at the end to come away with the victory. Masen Ward drained a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left to put GCMS ahead for good. Ward finished with 10 points, while Josh Jones chipped in nine for Grand.

In their second game of pool play on Friday, the T-Birds defeated the Lobos of Gallup, N.M., by the score of 42-36, snapping the Lobos’ 17-game winning streak.

They definitely showed why they were that good, starting with a full court press,” recalled Yanito. “Then, just like that, they were up 10 points.”

Yanito said the T-Birds were behind during the entire game until the final four minutes, when they were finally able to catch up and take the lead for good. Ward and Brayden Shultz each had 10 points to pace GCMS.

That victory put the Thunderbirds’ A team in the No. 1 seed spot in the five-team double-elimination tournament, which took place in Moab’s Center Street gym.

Meanwhile, the T-Bird C team was seeded No. 5 seed against No. 4 seed Price, and Price won that game, setting up a rematch with the T-Birds’ A team. Grand defeated Price in that contest 45-29, putting the T-Birds into the semifinals against Gallup.

Once again, Gallup stormed out to an early lead, but Grand was able to close the gap to one point by halftime. In the second half, the T-Birds tied the score a couple of times, but could never pull ahead. Ultimately, Gallup won the game by the score of 48-39.

“We couldn’t get the ball cross court like the way we wanted to,” said Yanito. “They answered every steal and turnover we gave them. We didn’t play like we should have. Our turnovers gave them the win.”

The loss put GCMS A in a must-win situation against Blanding’s Lyman Middle School, which also had one loss at that point. The winner would advance to face Gallup in the finals, while the loser would have to settle for third place in the tournament.

Against the Lyman Mustangs, Jones led all scorers with 12 points, while Alec Williams added 10, as GCMS pulled out a 47-29 victory and earned a rematch with Gallup.

As the teams met for the third time in two days, Yanito said he was hoping the T-Birds would have enough stamina to keep pace with the Lobos.

“I knew the game was going to be tough,” he said. “We controlled the game up to halftime, but in the second half we just didn’t have the legs to keep up after playing that many games.”

Although the Thunderbirds kept fighting till the end, GCMS lost the contest, 49-44, putting the Thunderbirds in second place in the tournament.

This weekend, March 8 and 9, the T-Birds are invited to a tournament in Richfield. The GCMS seventh graders are scheduled to open against Parowan on Friday at 6 p.m., followed by a game vs. North Sanpete at 7 p.m. The GCMS eighth-grade team is also playing in the same tournament, with contests on Friday at 6 p.m. against Juab and at 8 a.m. Saturday against Carbon.

A team of local sixth-graders from Moab is also scheduled to compete, with games against Emery at 9 a.m. Friday and against South Sevier on Saturday morning, Yanito said.

“This will be a good test for us to see how we match up against all the other teams from Utah,” Yanito said.

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