Boys pull off 16-point defeat of Wasps
For Park City hoops fans, Friday’s match-ups against Region 10 rival neighbor Wasatch was a roller coaster highs and lows, wins and losses. Playing their first consistent game in region play, the boys finished in a big way with a whopping 16-point win over the Wasps, 63-47. The women led throughout the first half, but disappeared in the third, ultimately losing, 58-50.
Coming back in a big way
When Miners head coach Troy Buford walked into the Park City locker room on Friday, he wrote one word on the chalkboard PLAYOFFS.
Although the boys were playing just their third game in Region 10 competition, Buford wanted to convey the urgency of winning the rest of their region games, especially at home.
"That’s how we are approaching it," Buford said. "Tuesday [against Uintah] is another ‘playoff game.’ If we win that one, we’re in a good position to make the playoffs."
The pressure of must-win situations seems to provide the necessary element for the Miners. With a rough preseason record of 1-10 and a slow 1-2 region start, the Miners are trying to build momentum throughout the region schedule. With powerhouses Judge Memorial and Morgan in their region, winning the other games is very important in order to earn a playoff berth.
"You gotta win the games you should win and let the other games take care of themselves," Buford said.
The intensity factor for Park City started right from the opening tip. Following an exchange between some of the team’s leaders, senior Wil Christensen went out and scored the first five points for the Miners off of a basket and free throws. Buford said that he designed the offense so that the opening plays ran through Christensen, allowing him to become involved early. His planned worked. Christensen’s momentum carried on throughout the rest of the game — recording a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
"It’s important to have him involved," Buford said. "He stayed after it the whole game and that’s what we have to have to win games."
Christensen wasn’t the only Miner lighting up the stat sheet. Brandon Buford was close behind with 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Scott Case had a perfect game, scoring 11 points, including a three-pointer and clutch free throws, without ever missing a shot.
"They did a really, really good job," Buford said.
But the win was not about just three guys. Buford felt the win was truly a team effort. When Brandon got into trouble early with three fouls to finish the first quarter, the rest of the Miners stepped up and scored 12 points in the second, putting Park City up 28-17 heading into the half.
In the fourth quarter, the Miners were up by nine points with five minutes left when Buford received his fourth foul. As the team’s leading free throw shooter, Buford was forced to bench his son, so that he could return at the end to make key foul shots. The Miners managed to maintain control of the ball and stall the Wasatch offense until Buford returned with about three minutes left in the game.
"They did a good job as a team without our primary ball handler," Buford said. "The kids showed a lot of character. They did everything they were supposed to do."
After Buford returned to the game, the Miners kept rolling, hitting important foul shots and securely finishing off the Wasps, 63-47. In the fourth quarter alone, the Miners went 10 for 12 at the charity stripe.
"All the guys really stood up and finished the game well, " Buford said.
Buford felt the big difference in his team was leadership. He said the older more experienced players stepped up and the rest of the Miners followed. Park City shot a collective 49 percent in the game and scored in double digits throughout the game.
The win should also provide the necessary momentum for the Miners as they prepare for their toughest game of the season against 3A-leading powerhouse Judge. The Bulldogs, led by fellow Parkite and University of Utah-bound senior Dan Deane, are 13-1 on the season, so the Miners need a winning streak as they prepare to face Judge on the road. Buford says that his team is focusing on each game separately, but knows that his players and Park City fans alike will be excited for Friday’s contest.
"It’s not one of those games you talk about, everyone just knows. They are our best rivals," Buford said.
Last year, the Miner’s ended their season at Judge in a spirited fashion, with a Park City player leaving the game with an ejection and Deane receiving a first-round suspension in the playoffs. Buford says that both teams have put the situation behind them and he expects a great game.
"That’s something under the bridge," Buford said.
The Miners will head to Salt Lake to take on the Bulldogs on Friday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. A third quarter conundrum
Team captain and the Park City girls’ basketball staff were in agreement about one thing Friday night’s game against Wasatch was a "must-win." And for three quarters, the Miners played that way. Unfortunately, a prep game is four quarters long, so when the Miners scored only five points in the third quarter, they were in a deficit they could not overcome and lost 58-50. "That was as hard a loss as we have had in 13 years," said Miners assistant coach Matt Mapstone.
The girls jumped to the early lead, outscoring the Wasps 18-9 in the first quarter. Wasatch fought back, but the Miners maintained a sizeable edge, up 30-24 heading into the half. Then the third quarter happened. Park City missed a layup to open the half, and everything went downhill from there. Minutes ticked off of the clock and the Miners still had not scored. In the meantime, the Wasps went on a 15-5 scoring run. The Miners finally got on the board at the end of the third with a three pointer and a two-point basket. In the fourth, the scoring drought continued for a while, but the Miners soon rallied and finished with 15 points in the quarter. "We turned into the team that we had been in the first half of the game," Mapstone said. Unfortunately, it was too little too late and the Wasps won, 58-50. Mapstone couldn’t explain where the breakdown happened. The Miners could easily have beaten the Wasps, but someone lost their ability in the third quarter. "We’re having letdowns at the wrong time and it seems to be contagious," Mapstone said. Part of the Wasps’ third-quarter run may largely be attributed to Wasatch standout Shanna Woodruff, who got into foul trouble early in the first quarter and sat out most of the first half. Although she finished the night with only eight points, her presence when she returned to the floor for the second half seemed to make the entire Wasatch team play better. "That’s the sign of a great player if you make the people around you play better," Mapstone said. All in all, it was a good week for Wasatch, who beat Judge Memorial the previous Friday. The Miners are now two games out of fourth place — far out of the running to get a playoff berth and must win at least four of their last seven games in region play to make a post-season appearance. "We’re in trouble. We need help now," Mapstone said. The Miners are scheduled to head to Vernal to play Uintah on Tuesday and play rival Judge on the road on Friday. Mapstone said the key to Friday night is to play consistently the entire game and finish well. He hopes that the team can use the hype and excitement of the matchup the rivalry and large crowd — to their advantage. "We’ve got to take it on a possession by possession basis," Mapstone said. "We can’t get caught up or it will be a long night." The Miners face the Bulldogs at 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20 in Salt Lake.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.