The Grand County Middle School boys seventh- and eighth-grade basketball teams ended their respective seasons at a weekend tournament in Richfield on March 8 and 9.
According to head coach Conrad Yanito, both Thunderbird teams made it to the quarterfinals of their respective tournaments before being eliminated. The GCMS eighth-graders finished their season with a 19-8 overall record, while the seventh-grade squad posted a 21-4 record.
Just getting to the Richfield tournament involved a three-hour trip through a snowstorm, Yanito said.
The T-Bird seventh-graders went 1-1 in pool play on Friday, first beating Parowan 39-24, as Brayden Schultz and Connor Denny each scored nine points. The seventh-graders then lost to North Sanpete, 41-25. In that game, Josh Jones of GCMS led all scorers, putting in 14 points.
The next morning, tournament participants were treated to a personal visit by former Utah Jazz player, Thurl Bailey. Bailey talked to the boys about setting and achieving personal goals.
“For a moment there he made all those boys feel like they were all on one team,” recalled Yanito
On Saturday, the GCMS seventh-graders defeated the host team, Richfield, by the score of 48-42. Masen Ward led the way with 18 points for GCMS, while Denny added 10.
The next game was a rematch with North Sanpete in the quarterfinals.
“We knew this was going to be a battle, and in my opinion this was the title game,” Yanito said. “They were big, but we had speed. We came out with more intensity, but I think the officials saw too much intensity, which put us in foul trouble. That’s when the momentum changed for us.”
North Sanpete ended up winning the game 38-31, and went on to win the tournament.
Schultz finished with 13 points for Grand, while Jones added nine.
The GCMS eighth-grade team put in a similar performance at the same tournament. In pool play Friday, the eight-grade Thunderbirds lost their first game to Juab.
“Juab shot the ball well, and we just didn’t come with the intensity that we wanted,” Yanito said.
Christian Wilson had 14 points to lead Grand, while Ken-yon Birdwell added nine.
In their second pool play game on Friday, the T-Bird eight-graders bounced back to defeat Carbon 53-37. Birdwell scored 16 in that game, while seventh-grader Masen Ward added 14 for the eighth-graders. Ward and a couple of other T-Bird players saw action on both teams during the tournament.
In their first game Saturday, the eighth-grade Thunderbirds beat Richfield 37-30, thanks in part to Birdwell’s 17 points and Wilson’s 10. The win set up a quarterfinals matchup against North Sanpete’s eighth-grade team.
“We carried our confidence into that game, against a very big North Sanpete Hawks team,” Yanito said. “Knowing who we were up against, we pounded their big boys hard at the block, getting them in foul trouble early.”
But the effort ultimately fell short, Yanito said.
“That wasn’t enough,” Yanito said. “Their bench was deeper than ours was, and they used that to their advantage and winning the battle 34-24.”
Yanito said the other teams’ coaches praised the Thunderbird teams for their sportsmanship and athleticism.
“We made our presence known there, and our boys had fun as well,” Yanito said.
He thanked the parents and fans for their support of the teams, and also thanked assistant coach Drew Birdwell for his help during the season.