Wildcats boys’ basketball holds on for tough win
January 6, 2015
The first quarter of Friday afternoon’s game against Duchesne was just what the doctor ordered for the South Summit High School boys’ basketball team.
After a rough start to the 2014-15 season, the Wildcats were looking forward to turning the calendar over to a new year and getting a fresh start. On Friday in Kamas, they did just that, jumping out to an 18-9 first-quarter lead over the Eagles.
The Wildcats have had trouble at the start of games this season, so Coach Dusty Hatch was happy to see a strong first period from his squad.
"That was probably the best first quarter we’ve played all year," he said. "We were defending, we were getting out and running, making the extra pass and getting good shots."
But, after a strong start to the second quarter, the Eagles came soaring back to cut South Summit’s lead to seven at halftime.
"We had a 19-point lead in the second quarter and before the quarter was over it was down to seven," Hatch said. "Their coach called timeout and then we just relaxed."
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Early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles tied the game up before some late-game heroics helped the Wildcats pull out a narrow 58-52 victory. Senior Zach Atkinson broke the tie with a big shot as time was winding down.
"Zach hit a huge three," Hatch said. "I thought that was probably the biggest shot of the game. With about three minutes left, he hit a three cold off the bench. He’d been sitting there about eight minutes, we put him in and he nailed it. That was a Brad Richins shot — that’s what Brad used to do for us last year."
Senior Jason Griffin led the Wildcats with 22 points, the type of performance the team is used to. But, behind Griffin, there was a much-needed balance on the offensive end. Junior Mason Gines had nine points, Atkinson had eight, junior Tanner Anderson had seven and senior Bracken Santos and junior Matt Brady each added six.
Hatch credits shifting Gines and Santos for spurring the offense.
"We’ve put Mason at the point and moved Bracken to the 2 spot and I think that’s helped both of them," he said. "Mason attacks better with the ball from the point. He’s also our best rebounder, which allows Bracken to get out and run to the wing sooner than he was able to before."
He added that an early morning shoot-around on Friday seemed to help the team, especially Anderson.
"Tanner probably had his best game today," Hatch said. "He came in the gym this morning at 9 and shot for about an hour and a half, and it showed. They all came in, not just Tanner, but Tanner spent a little more time than the rest of them.
"It’s just a confidence thing. If you spend more time in the gym, you get more confidence in your game and it translates to the games."
The main offensive focus moving forward will be to eliminate mistakes that have allowed teams to stay close to the Wildcats, Hatch said.
"We’d start to make a run and then we’d do something stupid," he said. "Then we’d recover from it and gain some momentum and then we’d make another mental error. That killed us. We can’t continue to do that."
Defense was a big area of focus heading into 2015. After some poor performances early in the season, Hatch thought Friday afternoon was something the Wildcats could build from.
"I did think our defense was a little better tonight," he said. "For the most part, our help defense was much better than it has been — we’ve struggled in that area. Our total defensive rotation was better than it has been in the past, too. We still have a long way to go, but I thought this game helped us."
Now, Hatch added, the Wildcats need to figure out how to win with authority. Letting teams claw their way back into games is something that needs to be fixed when region play starts next week.
"We have to learn how to win," he said. "Everyone played well at moments tonight and they all played poorly at moments. We have to tighten it up and play better. Tonight was a step in that direction."
South Summit (3-7) returns to the court on Friday night in Kamas. The Wildcats will square off against North Sanpete at 7 p.m.