Grand junior Nolan Ramirez versus South Sevier on Saturday, Jan. 13, in Moab. The Red Devils defeated the Rams 89-84 in double overtime. [photo by Dustee Chappell/Moab Sun News]

The Grand County High School boys basketball team snatched a pair of Region 15 wins from the grasp of defeat, coming from behind late to defeat the Richfield Wildcats 51-48 on Friday, Jan. 12, and the South Sevier Rams 89-84 in double overtime on Saturday, Jan. 13, improving to 3-2 near the halfway point of region play.

On Friday, the Red Devils overcame an eight-point fourth quarter deficit, thwarting the Wildcats’ stall technique and outscoring Richfield 14-3 in the final frame. The Red Devils held a 26-22 halftime lead, but Richfield outscored Grand 23-11 in the third quarter.

Grand boys basketball coach Scott Horton said the Red Devils knew they could take advantage of the Wildcats once they started stalling.

“As soon as they tried stalling, we knew we could put pressure on them because they have a couple of weak ball-handlers,” he said. “We got momentum and when it was time for them to start trying to score again, they couldn’t do it.”

Grand junior Nolan Ramirez put the game away from the free throw line in the final minute of the game. Coming to the stripe with his team down 48-47, Ramirez coolly hit the tying and go-ahead free throws to put Grand up 49-48. On the next possession, he hit two more free throws to extend the lead to 51-48, which was the final score after Richfield was unable to score again.

“Masen Ward told me to treat them just like regular free throws,” Ramirez said. “I wasn’t even nervous during the game, but after the game I was shaking.”

Ward, a senior, led the Red Devils in scoring with 13 points, while junior Cameron Hoppensteadt had nine points and seven rebounds, senior Brayden Schultz had nine points and five rebounds, and Ramirez had eight points and six assists. Senior Alec Williams also scored eight points. Overall, the Red Devils finished just 12-of-21 from the foul line.

Saturday’s game was a neck-and-neck slug-fest throughout. After a 12-2 run to begin the second half gave South Sevier its largest lead of the game at nine points, Grand responded with a 9-2 run of its own to pull back within two points and show the Rams, who entered the game with a 12-1 record and a 3-0 mark in region play, that they weren’t going away.

“We dug ourselves a hole in the third quarter,” Ramirez said. “But we fought back and got right back in the game and that was reassuring.”

The Red Devils tied the game at 53-53 early in the fourth quarter and took their first lead since halftime shortly thereafter at 64-63 on a three-point play by Hoppensteadt. Williams later gave Grand a 68-64 lead with a three-pointer, but first-team all-stater Caleb Barton converted a controversial three-point play to pull to 68-67. The home crowd thought Barton charged Ramirez, but the officials called a defensive foul.

Williams then answered with a pair of free throws to put Grand ahead 70-67, but Barton, who scored 42 points, hit one of his eight three-pointers to tie the game at 70 and force overtime.

In the first extra frame, Barton scored all 11 of South Sevier’s points on the strength of two three-point shots and 5-of-6 free throw shooting, eventually giving the Rams an 81-78 lead with time running out. Grand senior Josh Jones hurled a shot up from near half court with less than three seconds remaining and was fouled. Not to be outdone by Ramirez the day before, Jones hit all three of his free throws to knot the game back up at 81-81, forcing a second overtime.

“It’s awesome to see a kid in that pressure situation have success, and looking at him, he had confidence – like there was never any doubt,” Horton said.

Williams took over the second overtime frame, scoring six of Grand’s eight points, while Barton finally went cold, going scoreless in the second overtime, giving Grand an 89-84 victory.

Jones said the Red Devils had an advantage over the Rams in that they could turn to several players to help them stay in position to win the game as opposed to the one-dimensional offensive performance the Rams exhibited.

“We have a resilient team,” he said. “We don’t bring each other down. We lift each other up. Everyone on the court can score for us at any time.”

Horton praised Grand for resisting the urge to try to match the Rams three-pointer for three-pointer.

“We trust the offense,” he said, adding that defensively, “We aren’t going to defend them at half court. If they want to throw up shots from that far back, we’ll go ahead and let ’em.”

Hoppensteadt scored 21 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, while Williams added 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Ramirez had 15 points as the team’s go-to scorer during their third-quarter comeback. Ward and Jones each had 14 points. Grand had the advantage at the foul line, converting 26-of-36 shots, compared to 18-of-23 from the Rams.

After the weekend’s action, South Sevier (12-2 overall) and Manti (11-3 overall) are tied atop the region standings with 3-1 records. Grand, also 11-3 overall, is third at 3-2.

The Red Devils were scheduled to play Emery on Wednesday, Jan. 17, and resume play at San Juan on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. They return home next weekend for games Friday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m., against Manti; and Saturday, Jan. 27, at 4 p.m., against North Sanpete.

“Everyone is good in our region,” Horton said. “You’ve got to show up every night … the confidence (beating South Sevier) gives them will carry over and that’s the best part.”

Red Devils improve to 3-2 in region play

“It’s awesome to see a kid in that pressure situation have success, and looking at him, he had confidence like there was never any doubt.”