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Wildcats make it rain in season opener

Atkinson brothers combine for 29 points in win

South Summit senior Kaden Atkinson, shown here shooting a three in a game last season, scored 14 points in South Summits 87-63 victory over Tabiona last Tuesday.

South Summit senior Kaden Atkinson, shown here shooting a three in a game last season, scored 14 points in South Summits 87-63 victory over Tabiona last Tuesday.

In recent years, basketball has revolutionized into a shooter’s game. While the typical old-school coach, such as South Summit High School’s men’s basketball Head Coach Dusty Hatch, would prefer to see teams pound it down low and take a more efficient shot, many are opting to focus on three-point shooting.

“Even up until the last couple of years, there hasn’t been an emphasis on shooting the three,” Hatch said. “It was more of a, if it’s there and you’re a good shooter, you can shoot it.”

Hatch has had to adjust his philosophy with the Wildcats, adapting to the new game by performing drills and allowing his players to take more shots from beyond the arc. This was evident in South Summit’s 87-63 season-opening win over Tabiona last Tuesday, where the Wildcats made 15 three-pointers.

Without starting point guard Nick Beasley, who sat out the opener due to injuries suffered during football season, Hatch emptied the bench to ensure he’d get a good look at all of his players in a game situation. It didn’t matter who was in the game for South Summit, because seemingly every shot was falling.

“It was everybody,” Hatch said. “Even Coach [Lee] Gines from Tabiona after the game said, ‘We didn’t know how to defend you.’”

The Wildcats shot 59 percent from the floor, including the 15-for-29 mark from deep. They also registered 26 assists on their 33 made baskets.

Leading the way for South Summit were the Atkinson brothers, Kaden and Kael. The latter, who is just a sophomore, led the team with 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting, while Kaden, a senior, scored 14 points with four three-pointers.

The only other Wildcat to score in double figures was Kia Rockhill, who finished with 10 points on a perfect shooting night from the field.

“I would say the highlight was the Atkinson boys, Kaden and Kael,” Hatch said. “They both played really well. I don’t know if I was really surprised by that because I expect those two to play well. I really thought that, as a team, we did an exceptional job on the offensive end.”

Defensively, they weren’t bad either, causing 23 turnovers, which included eight steals and a block. South Summit capitalized on those turnovers by scoring 22 points off of them.

The barrage of three-point shots from the Wildcats wasn’t by mistake, as Hatch has developed a system for his team. At the end of practices, if a player makes a certain percentage of shots within an allotted time frame, that player is given his “three-point license,” as Hatch puts it.

“The kids really eat it up,” Hatch said. “They spend a lot of time practicing so they can get their three-point license so they’re allowed to shoot in the game. It’s made a big effect on our shooting I think.”

The team is even opting to push for the three-point shot on fast break opportunities instead of going in for the easier layup. Hatch cites a newfound confidence instilled in his players for the reason his team has been able to perform well under this new style of play.

While the early-season performance from the Wildcats is encouraging, Tuesday’s win did not come without error. The main reason for Hatch emptying his bench was to get a good look at all of his players, but he also was forced into that situation after many of his starters earned two fouls early in the game.

In Tuesday’s contest, Tabiona shot 41 free throws, a number that Hatch says will need to decline moving forward.

“We’re still a little bit in football mode,” Hatch said. “There were a lot of fouls. … We have to get our hands up, move our feet a little better and get in better position, all while maintaining that aggressive style of play.”

Next up for the Wildcats is the Bear River Classic this weekend at Bear River High School. Their first game in that tournament will be on Thursday at 7 p.m against Bear River.