Dale Thomas hit seven three-pointers and scored 24 points in the final game of his high school career, but the Red Devils couldn’t overcome Emery in their season finale, falling 89-63 at home on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
Emery’s Bailey Faimalo led the way for the playoff-bound Spartans, notching a double-double with 12 points and 12 assists as well as five steals. Faimalo was one of six Spartans to reach double-digit scoring.
The Red Devils (7-14, 0-8 Region 15) honored the five seniors on the squad by having each of them start and play most of the game. The seniors include Thomas, Brett Walker, Wesley Rodda, Kamron Call and Preston Walston, who didn’t play the entire rest of the season because of a shoulder injury suffered during football season before starting the finale.
“It’s senior night,” said Travis Clark, the Red Devil basketball coach who began this senior-night tradition. “All of these guys played as freshmen. They all put their heart and soul into this program and they deserve to play.”
Rodda scored nine points, but fouled out in the middle of the third quarter. He said he was okay with fouling out if it meant protecting the Devil’s Den.
“I wasn’t going to let them get a dunk in our house,” he said.
Call added eight points for Grand County, earning praise from Clark for being a talented player who just stopped growing. Clark said Call had all-state potential, but didn’t get any taller after freshman year, to the detriment of his basketball career.
Walston tacked on seven points in his only game of the season and final high school basketball game and Walker added six points before fouling out with 1:19 left in the game.
“I felt Brett and Wesley, even though they fouled out, played well tonight,” Clark said. “They were playing tough and protecting our house so I wouldn’t say they’re happy, but they’re okay with it.”
The Spartans took advantage early on of the Red Devil lineup that hadn’t played together all season, going on a 20-2 run beginning in the middle of the first quarter and carrying into the second quarter to give them a 26-6 lead. The Red Devils fought back with a 7-0 run of their own on a three-pointer from Thomas and back-to-back scores from Rodda.
The Red Devils and Spartans went back and forth over the next few minutes before Emery reclaimed the momentum with an 18-0 that spanned the rest of the first half early into the third quarter, giving the Spartans a 53-20 lead.
It was about then that the Red Devils stopped letting the game frustrate them and started having fun. Walston and junior Koi Cook both hit the first three-pointers of their careers and the Red Devils played with more confidence, releasing the tension they had let get to them.
“I think in any sport if you just calm down, relax and play your game you’ll be better off,” Walston said. “Don’t let anything get into your head and just have fun.”
Thomas, who led the Red Devils in scoring with 11.4 points per game and hit 50 three-pointers to rank second in 2A, was visibly emotional after the game.
“It sucks right now (that it’s over),” he said. “Basketball has always been one of my favorite sports and I grew up playing with these guys. We gave it our best these last few games and it didn’t go like we hoped, but I love every one of these guys. It was fun playing.”
Rodda said he has some regrets about his high school career, but is proud of it nonetheless.
“We all have regrets – not working hard enough, the coulda-shoulda-woulda,” he said. “There were times where I didn’t work as hard as I should have, but I did what I could.”
Walker was perhaps the most emotional after the game, sharing that his fondest memories are of the pep-talks Clark would give him before the game while his ankles were being taped.
“He’d tell me I could dominate any game I wanted do and the only one who could beat me was myself,” he said.
The seniors will all go off in different directions for the spring and for life. Among those directions, Thomas said he has yet to decide whether he will play a spring sport or focus on golf, noting he has a scholarship to play golf in college. Walston has will play baseball for the Red Devils, returning after being named first-team all-state by the Deseret News as a junior. Walker said he will join the military after high school.
But, for those returning next year to the Devil’s Den, the seniors all seemed to echo the same parting message.
“Work as hard you can,” Walker said. “It goes by so much faster than you think it does. Four years feels more like four minutes.”
Clark said he is excited to see what the group of returning players can do next year, noting they have already made their goal to reach the playoffs.
“Our region is tough. Really, really tough,” he said. “But we’re going to be a better team next year and I am willing to bet we won’t be in last place.”