South Summit boys’ basketball: Wildcats run all over Merit Academy
It was exactly what Dusty Hatch wanted: a season-opening game against a decent opponent on South Summit’s own floor, a team that would test the Wildcats, but a team that the boys in green and white could topple handily if they played to their potential.
They did exactly that.
The South Summit High School boys’ basketball team defeated visiting Merit Academy 63-42 in Kamas Tuesday night. Hatch said he was delighted with the way the Wildcats played, especially with it being the first game of the season. There wasn’t much rust, he said.
"I was really pleased with how the whole thing went," said the second-year Wildcat head coach. "Obviously we’ve got a lot to work on, but I wanted a game where we could win by 25 points and still be competitive."
South Summit forward Beau Rydalch led the way for the Wildcats, scoring a team-high 17 points and nabbing nine rebounds. Guard Brad Richins had 13 points, nine rebounds and three steals.
"Brad was very active," Hatch said. "He came in and hit three 3-pointers right off the bat. That’s just what he does: He gives the team a lift and last night was no exception."
Forwards Garrett Crystal (eight points, six rebounds) and Porter Larsen (eight points, two assists), along with guard Jay Reidhead (eight points, four assists and four steals) helped the Wildcats to the season-opening runaway. Porter Lewis scored four points in the win, while Jason Griffon had three.
While a 21-point opening-night victory should please any coach, Hatch said the team has to work on its transition defense. He said Merit scored 12 of its 21 first-half points on fast-break layups. He said the Wildcats were, at times, fairly nonchalant with handling the basketball, which allowed Merit to get out and run off of turnovers.
"We pressed mostly the whole game, but we pressed a zone press in the first half and they didn’t really hurt us on that. But I think we were so busy getting ready to go into our press that we weren’t always ready," he said. "Our half-court defense was adequate, but transition hurt us in the first half."
South Summit eventually settled down on defense and put Merit away with a 21-point fourth quarter. He said both the press and half-court defense employed by his team led to multiple fast breaks, a style of play Hatch wants his team to grow accustomed to this season.
"I thought our press got us easy looks on the offensive end," he said. "But we didn’t score easy points out of our half-court offense. In the second half, we did a full-court, man-to-man press. We got into passing lanes well and got quite a few steals and easy baskets."
With at least a nine-man bench this season, Hatch said he can afford to use a full-court press for the entire game, but added that his players, many of whom play football in the fall, are still working their way into basketball shape.
"You could see our timing was off; there wasn’t a lot of flow offensively," he said. "I attribute that to playing football because basketball is a game of timing and it takes repetition to get that timing down. You could tell at times we were out of sync.
"I just kept subbing frequently. We seemed to manage through it."
The Wildcats will be off until next weekend when they make their second-straight trip to the Pepsi Classic basketball tournament in Ogden where they’ll face Roy (Thursday), Layton Christian (Friday) and the host, Ben Lomond (Saturday). South Summit went 2-1 at the tournament a year ago, beating Roy and Layton Christian but falling to Ben Lomond in a nail-biter 39-38.
"We’ll have to play a lot better than we did (Tuesday) to compete," Hatch said. "We’ve got our work cut out for us."
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