RICHFIELD – If Neal Monson decides to ever become a teacher, he can offer classes on how to take over a basketball game.
Monson certainly found a way to school North Sevier.
The senior center scored all 20 of his team's second-half points to lift Waterford to a 39-27 victory over the Wolves in the quarterfinal round of the 2A boys basketball tournament at the Sevier Valley Center on Thursday morning.
Monson went 10-of-13 from the field and 8-of-10 from the free throw line to finish with 29 points. He added 14 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals in an all-out dominant performance.
Such a stat line is indicative of how little North Sevier could do to stop him. It is something his teammates have come to expect and they simply find ways to get Monson the ball and then get out of the way.
"We've been built on my shoulders all along and my teammates do a really good job of looking around and finding me," Monson said. "There are times where they could easily take a shot. But they're really unselfish and so they get the ball into me for a dunk or a layup or whatever."
Amid a sloppy first quarter where both teams combined for nine turnovers, Waterford (17-3) found a way to take advantage of an offensive dry spell for North Sevier.
The Ravens hit three of their first four baskets and carved out a 7-0 lead after Monson's put back basket with 6:25 left in the quarter. On the other end, the Wolves missed their first five baskets and did not get on the board until Daniel Hales cut to the basket for a layup with 1:44 remaining in the quarter.
Waterford twice extended its advantage to double digits in the second quarter – the last time on a hook shot and free throw from Monson that made it 19-8 for the Ravens with 13.5 seconds left before halftime.
The Wolves shot just 3-of-20 from the field in the first half. It set a tone for continued offensive futility after halftime. By game's end, North Sevier made just 10-of-46 field goal attempts.
It kept in line with the defense-first philosophy that Waterford – the top 2A team in scoring defense has espoused all season.
"It's a truism in every sport: when two teams are going, defense has got to be what you start with," Ravens coach Reid Monson said. "You got start with it. You got to end with it. You got to be there in the middle."
Jaden Gurney brought North Sevier a glimmer of hope early in the third quarter when he buried a 3-pointer to cut Waterford's lead to 19-13. That only opened the door for a 10-0 run completely fueled by Monson that put the Ravens up 29-13 with 51.4 seconds left in the quarter.
The Wolves had one more comeback left when Hales hit a 3-pointer to cap an 8-2 run that made it 34-27 with 2:05 left. But that turned out to be the final basket for North Sevier and Monson scored five points over the final minute to ice the win for Waterford.