Park City’s rally against No. 10 Bountiful in the second round of the 5A state playoffs comes up short in 80-64 loss
The Park City boys basketball team knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
As the No. 26 seed in the Class 5A state playoffs, the Miners already pulled off one upset in the opening round taking down No. 7 Lehi 48-45 last week.
But to pull off another upset over No. 10 Bountiful on Friday night, it was going to take a totally different type of effort.
Despite trailing by double digits at the end of the first quarter, Park City was able to cut the deficit to two points in the fourth quarter before its rally came up short in the end — falling 80-64 in its season-ending loss.
“We knew that with our defense and our press we could create some mismatches with Lehi, and that’s what happened in the end,” said Thomas Purcell, Park City head coach. “But we knew Bountiful was a different type of monster with their two star players. … We knew that we would have to play near perfect to get the win.”
Sophomore Carson Tabaracci led the Miners with 15 points, knocking down a season-high 5-of-5 from three-point territory to keep Park City in the game. Senior Mark McCurdy finished his career with 14 points while sophomore Mitch Lind finished his postseason strong with 12 points.
“The boys never gave up. … That’s one thing I can definitely say because they just kept fighting and working hard,” Purcell said. “Despite trailing early, they stayed with the game plan and kept sticking with the offense. We hit some really big shots and crawled back in the game. … Each one of the boys hit big shots that kept us in it.”
One massive problem for Park City in the game was Bountiful junior Robert Whaley Jr., who has NBA lineage as his dad Robert Whaley played for the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors from 2005 to 2006. The 6-foot-5 junior was unstoppable down low, finishing with a season-high 38 points and 14 rebounds, shooting 16-of-21 from the floor including a couple of powerful dunks.
Purcell thought he had a great game plan going into Friday’s game despite the one day to scout and prepare as to best limit Whaley’s presence down low, but it didn’t exactly go as planned. They wanted to push the tempo and force Whaley to run the court and hopefully tire him out, and when he got the ball down on the block, they wanted to force him into jump shots and double-team him if he put the ball on the floor.
“We threw the entire kitchen sink at him. … We tried everything and we couldn’t stop him at all,” Purcell said. “You have to give him a lot of credit because he was a totally different player against us than any of the other games we watched on film. … I don’t know if he turned it on for the playoffs or what. He was knocking down his shots and running the floor, just doing all the stuff against us that he didn’t show in other games.”
Despite Whaley’s dominance, the Miners mounted their double-digit comeback on the aide of a full-court press defense and their Princeton offense. The Princeton offense, which is about constant movement, back-door cuts, screens on and off the ball and discipline, was introduced to the Miners when Purcell came on this season and Park City finally ran it to perfection.
“We made a living off the Princeton stuff, it’s how we were able to take advantage of him (Whaley) on defense and get back into the game,” Purcell said. “We knew he wasn’t great at guarding off the ball so that part of the scout actually worked. … The back cuts left us wide open in the paint for the easy layups that kept us in it.”
After Park City cut the deficit to 54-52 early in the fourth, the next four possessions decided the game as Bountiful went on an 11-2 run that Park City was unable to overcome in the end. The back-breaker came on two three-pointers by Austin Cooper, a player who came into the game averaging four points per game but finished with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.
Regardless of the outcome, Purcell looks at the season as a success knowing how much the Miners overcame throughout the course of the year. The resiliency to overcome shown throughout the season, which was showcased Friday night, is what Purcell will always take away from this particular season and team.
“I’m can’t say enough how proud I am of the team. … I truly believe that Park City has the best kids in the state and that’s a statement I will always stand by,” Purcell said.
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.