The Grand County High School boys basketball team advanced to the quarterfinals of the UHSAA Utah State 3A Boys Basketball Championship tournament by beating the Union Cougars 76-65 at Orem High School on Saturday, Feb. 16.
The Grand County High School (GCHS) Red Devils, the Region 15 No. 5 seed, played the Region 14 runner-up nearly even in the first half as the Cougars took a slim 31-29 lead into intermission. Late in the third quarter, however, the Red Devils began to pull away, which GCHS boys basketball coach Scott Horton said was because the Red Devils started dictating the pace to the Cougars.
“We didn’t come out and play our pace,” Horton said of the Red Devils’ first-half performance. “They came out and shot the ball unexpectedly well. We just had to settle down and adjust, and when we did, they couldn’t stop us.”
The GCHS Red Devils had four double-digit scorers against Union, led by senior Cameron Hoppensteadt’s 24 points, accompanied by 14 rebounds. Fellow seniors Teddy Park and Connor Guerrero each had 13 points and senior Nolan Ramirez had 11. Senior Kevin Park chipped in with nine points and senior Tyson Horton added six. All six players hit a three-point shot during the contest. As a team, the Red Devils connected on eight shots from behind the arc.
“Cameron can do a lot of things for us. He’s a difference maker,” coach Horton said. “He draws their attention and gets our shooters open looks.”
The GCHS Red Devils will play region rival Emery in the quarterfinals on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 9:30 a.m. GCHS and Emery finished tied in the Region 15 standings, each having a 6-6 record with the Spartans winning the No. 4 seed via coin toss. The Red Devils and Spartans went 1-1 in head-to-head games this year, with each team winning on their home floor. The Spartans beat GCHS 81-70 in Castle Dale on Jan. 16, which the GCHS Red Devils avenged 94-82 in Moab on senior night on Feb. 9.
“This is the game we wanted,” coach Horton said. “We want to play Emery. We know them and they know us. We’re both basically built the same way. It’ll be a matter of which team wants to win more.”
The winner of the rubber match between GCHS and Emery will advance to the 3A semifinal the following day against the winner of the game immediately to follow between Richfield and Judge Memorial. The losers of the two games will also play each other in the consolation bracket.
Along with the Red Devils and Spartans, three other Region 15 teams won their first-round matches, giving the region more than half of the spots in the quarterfinals. Region champion Richfield beat Maesar Preparatory Acadmey 69-35, while No. 2 seed Manti beat Grantsville 59-40, and No. 3 South Sevier beat Juab 68-54. San Juan, the Region 15. No. 6 seed, was the only region representative to lose in the first round, falling to Region 14 Champion Providence Hall 79-55.
“The title’s going to go through Region 15,” coach Horton said. “We’ll have to beat those teams if we want to be champions.”
The tournament concludes with the state title game on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m.