It was 10-0 before the visiting Maeser Lions could even blink. By the time all the South Summit fans got settled in on Wednesday night at South Summit High School, their Wildcats had built up a 23-0 lead.
Junior guard Brad Richins scored the first five points of the game and junior forward Beau Rydalch and senior forward Garrett Crystal each added seven points in the first frame.
Maeser finally got on the board with one minute, 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter when Colton Bradshaw hit a pair of free throws, but the Lions found themselves in a 23-5 hole after one quarter of play and would eventually lose the game in blowout fashion, 79-38.
"That was our best start all year," South Summit coach Dustin Hatch said. "Defensively, we got into them. They run a lot of set plays and we thought maybe if we picked them up early, we could get them out of that."
That's exactly what the Wildcats did. South Summit swarmed the passing lanes, forcing several Maeser turnovers and getting plenty of easy transition baskets.
The Wildcats' fortunes changed in the second quarter, though. They were outscored 16-14 in the quarter, allowing the Lions to hang around at halftime.
"That's what we've done all year," Hatch said. "We've been up and down and we can't maintain."
After halftime, South Summit got back to doing the things that made it successful in the first half - swarming defense, solid free-throw shooting and easy baskets on offense.
"That's what happens - we always level out," Hatch said. "We just can't have those lapses and losses of focus. It's like we took a deep breath and decided (the 18-point first quarter lead) was enough."
Rydalch and Crystal led the Wildcats with 17 points each, while Richins finished with 10 points.
Hatch said Rydalch's solid all-around play got the team going and helped the Wildcats end their slump, which included last Wednesday's home loss to Summit Academy, when the Wildcats blew a nine-point lead with two minutes left in the game.
"I thought that was one of Beau's better games," he said. "We put him on their best player (on defense), hoping that would get him going offensively and I think it did."
By the fourth quarter, the Wildcats had built a big enough lead that Hatch was able to play his entire bench.
"We have never gotten to play our bench all year," he said. "Every game is a dog fight. Those kids on the bench hardly ever get any time, so that was nice. And what was even better was they were productive when they came in."
Having Rydalch and the rest of the team in a groove will help South Summit gain some much-needed consistency, Hatch said.
"Hopefully that will carry over," he said. "Now they know how to win again, but we haven't won back-to-back games all season."
The Wildcats (6-7) played Rowland Hall on Friday, after this issue went to press, with a chance to begin their first winning streak of the season.
They travel to North Summit for a rivalry game on Wednesday, Jan. 23.