St. George • They weren’t going to lose this time.
After falling twice to South Sevier during the regular season, the Manti Templars put together a dominant performance en route to a 63-50 victory over the Rams in the Class 3A boys’ basketball state championship game Saturday night in the Burns Arena.
Matt Nelson led the way for the Templars by scoring a game-high 20 points to go with seven rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. Travis Thomson chipped in 10 points, five rebounds and two steals, while Brody Barson and Tanner Rasmussen combined for 16 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in the win.
“It’s unreal and is the best feeling ever,” Nelson said. “We won it my freshman year, and it’s amazing to be able to close out my high school career this way, too.”
The win was Manti’s fifth state basketball title and second (2015) in the last four years.
“South Sevier is a great team, and they can really shoot it,” Manti coach Devin Shakespear said. “The game plan coming in tonight was to contest every shot and not let them have any open looks. I believe tonight we only gave up a couple of open looks, and when you do that, you are going to win games.”
After an intense first half that featured seven lead changes, four ties and no lead larger than four points, it opened up in the second half.
After South Sevier’s Caleb Barton tied the score at 30-30 with a long 3-pointer, Manti went on a 20-6 run to end the third quarter.
“Everything went right for us,” Shakespear said. “It all started on defense for us as we got defensive rebounds and didn’t allow them to get any second-chance points. Then on offense we also pushed the tempo, and that led to a lot of transition buckets.”
Manti was looking forward to having another crack at the Rams after being swept in the regular season.
“Oh yeah, we wanted to play them again,” Nelson said. “We didn’t play our best against them, and knew we were better than that.Tonight we came out focused and played as a team and got the job done.”
South Sevier used big second half comebacks to top Manti in the two previous meetings, but the Templars made sure history didn’t repeat itself.
“We remembered what happened in those games, and tonight we knew our lead at halftime wasn’t safe and made sure to come out with that same intensity,” Nelson said.
Shakespear said: “I couldn’t be prouder our team. We had two seniors go down with season-ending injuries, and guys stepped up and made sure that we didn’t miss a beat.”
Brodee Tebbs led South Sevier with 17 points and three steals, while Barton had 13 points and Easton Hunt chipped in seven points.
After shooting lights out from beyond the arc in Friday’s state semifinals, the Rams went just 8 of 26 from downtown thanks to Manti’s defensive pressure.
The Templars also got it done on the glass. They outrebounded the Rams 32-17 and had 16 assists compared to just seven for South Sevier.
MANTI 63, SOUTH SEVIER 50
• Manti wins its second state title in the last four years.
• Matt Nelson leads Manti with 20 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.
• South Seiver won the two meetings between these teams during the regular season.