CEDAR CITY — With 1A basketball being known for its small schools from rural towns, it's no surprise that the classification's best player and possible tournament MVP is from . . . Uruguay?
That's right, and Juan Pablo Silveira, a junior at Mount Vernon who is playing his first season of high school basketball in the United States, scored 26 points to lead the Pirates past Piute 58-57 in the 1A semifinals on Friday night. Mount Vernon will play Manila at 5 p.m. for the 1A championship.
Silveira's shot is as sweet as candy. But he can also pass, rebound and handle the ball.
"He's just clutch," Mount Vernon coach Scott Lambson said. "He's a man among boys out there. Mentally, he never loses composure. Other teams run player after player at him each game. As long as he's on the court our chances are as good as anybody's."
Silveira carried the Patriots through most of Friday's win. But it was the coach's nephew, Adam Lambson, who hit the winning shot. With the Patriots down 57-56 and Piute's defensive attention focused on Silveira, Lambson drove through the lane and hit a running floater to put Mount Vernon on top.
On Piute's next possession, the Pirates weren't able to get a shot off after a pass was intercepted by who else — Silveira.
"We just turned the ball over at critical times and that was huge," Piute coach Steve Hoagland said. "But our kids battled and I'm proud of their effort."
After a timeout with five seconds remaining, Silveira nearly cost his team the game by throwing an errant pass that was stolen by Piute. But the Thunderbirds were out of timeouts and a desperation 3-point attempt by Josh Kellum fell short.
"I told them one thing — don't throw the ball away," Lambson said. "Don't tell kids what you don't want them to do."
The Patriots did exactly what Lambson wanted at the start of the game. After Mount Vernon opened the tournament with two blowout wins, a third looked likely after Silveira scored 10 points in the first quarter and the Patriots led 20-9.
"We demoralized the last two teams we played in the tournament," Lambson said. "I thought for a second we were going to again."
But Piute's Aaron Pitts kept his team from getting routed. He made three 3-pointers in the first half and scored 10 of Piute's first 14 points. Piute handled Mount Vernon's press better after the first quarter and trailed by one at halftime.
Piute led for most of the second half, but never by more than three points. Mount Vernon took a 56-55 lead after two baskets by Silveira set up Adam Lambson's heroics.
With the win, Mount Vernon, a private school from Murray, will play in its first championship game since 1993 when the Patriots lost to Valley. Lambson played on that team and this year's Mount Vernon team is staying in the same hotel that the '93 team did. Bad omen? It may not matter with Silveira on the court.
"We've got the best player in the tournament," Lambson said. "We hope it makes a difference. Tonight it did."
In 1A's other semifinal:
MANILA 51, TABIONA 49: The Mustangs, 1A's version of Cinderella, got their third upset win in three days to advance to the 1A championship game.
Jeff Catron rebounded a missed free throw by Zac Schofield with under 10 seconds to play and put back the game-winning basket. Tabiona had a chance to win but missed a 3-pointer as time expired.
Manila has defeated two region champions, Wasatch Academy and Tabiona, during its tournament run. Mustangs coach Scott Taylor thought his team had a chance to make it to the title game before the brackets were announced. He wasn't so confident when he found out who his team was going to play.
"I thought we absolutely were in the toughest spot we could be in," Taylor said.
But since the Mustangs have been overcoming higher seeded teams, why not let the Tigers lead by nine in the fourth quarter? Manila fell behind 38-29 at the start of the fourth quarter but slowly got back into the game. After Jeremy Catron made a 3-pointer to make the score 47-46, the Mustangs wouldn't be denied.
In 1A consolation games:
VALLEY 86, MILFORD 53: Owen Hoyt scored 33 points and Josh Sawyer added 21 as the Buffaloes routed the Tigers.
Valley led by 19 points at the end of the first period. Matt Jenkins led Milford with 11 points.
MERIDIAN 57, GREEN RIVER 56: Bryan Anderson scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Mongoose rallied to beat the Pirates.
Meridian trailed by eight at the start of the fourth. Anderson and James Barrett each made two 3-pointers to get the Mongoose back in the game.
Jake Mecham led Green River with 16 points.
WATERFORD 63, WASATCH ACADEMY 60: Tyson Brazell continued his impressive run in the 1A tournament with 23 points to lead the Ravens over the Tigers.
Cliff Snyder scored 14 points for Waterford and Everard Bartlett led Wasatch Academy with 18 points.
DUGWAY 64, RICH 57: Nathan Nelson scored 21 points and Dane Schofield added 16 as the Mustangs pulled away from the Rebels in the fourth quarter to win.
The Mustangs will play for fifth place today. Kyle Motta led Rich with 17 points.