For a few of the spectators sitting in the Springville section during Saturday’s boys and girls 5A state basketball championships at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, seeing the Red Devils compete for titles hit home on multiple levels.
Seth Mortensen and Bennett Hullinger had younger siblings who were on the floor in the two games.
Seth Mortensen’s younger brother Austin Mortensen, a senior guard, helped propel the Springville boys team to its 66-53 win over Timpview to win the state championship, while Bennett Hullinger’s younger sister Ahna Hullinger, a senior guard as well, gave everything she had for the Red Devil girls team that fell, 46-34, to Highland in the girls title game.
“It’s really special to be here,” Seth Mortensen said Saturday. “We were invited to the team night Friday night, so we were able to say a few words and talk to the team a little bit. It’s special, particularly having that little brother who is playing. Every night we are talking about everything that is going on. It’s great to have another championship in the family. I’m very proud of them.”
Bennett Hullinger added: “It’s really fun to be here and to be a part of the basketball community. My dad is on the staff at Springville and Ahna is a tough player. She’s fun to watch. She battles hard. She’s small and I like small players. It wasn’t their day but it was fun to watch the boys and girls all year long.”
Being there for those games also hit the two older brothers with some intense memories. They were seniors during the magical run of the Springville boys basketball team to the state title in 2017.
“They battled just like we had to,” Seth Mortensen said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He said he does see a little bit of himself in his brother as he watched him play.
“I think it comes from how we played growing up at Springville,” Seth Mortensen said. “It’s not just him and me but honestly everyone at Springville has that same mentality. It doesn’t matter the score. We’re going to go out and find ways to win the game.”
Austin Mortensen was a freshman on the 2017 Springville squad, so he got to see that senior class emerge victorious. He got to experience the same success while having his older brother there in attendance.
“It feels good to have him be here and see all the stuff we’ve accomplished,” Austin Mortensen said.
Red Devil head coach Justin Snell said inviting some of the players to come back for the team night on Friday night was just another example of how Springville is a tight-knit community.
“It’s what this community is,” Snell said. “It’s such a unique place. We drove out to come to the championship game today and from the high school to the freeway the roads were lined with balloons and people. You don’t find that anywhere else. At our team night Friday night all five of the seniors from that championship team were there talking to the boys about sticking together and working hard. It’s such a unique community that stresses those things. It’s amazing.”
Bennett Hullinger and Seth Mortensen said they are honored to still be a part of that community, even though their playing days as Red Devils are over.
“It’s special,” Bennett Hullinger said. “Having Springville be a one-high- school town, I feel like that makes a big difference. When you split it up, it doesn’t have the same feel. Luckily we’ve had the one high school and everyone around the community just rallies around it all the time. Everyone comes together for every event and that’s really fun. It’s just a really great community. You celebrate the wins and take the losses as one. It’s fun.”
Seth Mortensen added: “Even after my mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, two or three years down the road from when I played, I feel like I still hear about basketball around the community. You have people coming up to you, talking to you about games that happened three years ago. It’s something super special. It definitely sticks in this community.”