South Summit basketball claws past San Juan
It took a while for the South Summit boys’ basketball team to get warmed up on Saturday at Orem High School, but once the Wildcats got going, they stayed hot.
Trailing 24-22 at halftime, the Wildcats came out in the third quarter and outscored San Juan 14-8. By winning the fourth quarter 18-14, South Summit came away with a 54-46 victory and advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Following a narrow loss to rival North Summit to end the regular season, the Wildcats lost a coin toss to the Braves and ended up as Region 16’s No. 3 seed. South Summit Coach Dusty Hatch said that loss left a bitter taste in the Wildcats’ mouths.
"They were disappointed with the North Summit loss, but we had bigger plans," he said. "And we actually felt like the coin flip put us in a better spot in terms of matchups. They were excited to get back after it."
The South Summit offense displayed a balance it hasn’t had much this season, Hatch said. Junior Kaden Atkinson led the way with 22 points, but senior Mason Gines and junior Jason McNeil each added 11 points to help carry the scoring load.
"I think that’s huge for us," Hatch said. "Normally we only have one player in double-digits."
Hatch said he and the other South Summit coaches could feel Atkinson’s big game coming.
"He played a great game," he said. "Kaden was extraordinarily focused and you could see it when he was warming up. He was just a little more aggressive offensively than he normally is."
Though Gines usually leads the team in scoring, Hatch said the other aspects of the senior’s game stood out Saturday.
"He didn’t score a lot of points, but he pulled down 15 rebounds and made some great passes," he said. "A lot of Jason McNeil’s points come off hard cuts and having Mason see him when he’s cutting."
Junior Nick Beasley (seven points), junior Brandon Dansie (two) and senior Tanner Anderson (one) also contributed offensively.
On Thursday morning, the Wildcats will meet Region 13 No. 1 seed Beaver in the 2A quarterfinals. Hatch said if the Wildcats play the way they’re capable of playing, he likes the matchup.
"Beaver’s a good team," he said. "They play really good man-to-man defense, but we play better against teams that play man-to-man defense. We feel like we’re smaller than everybody, so in man-to-man defense, we play with space and pull their bigs away from the basket. We’ve got players who are fairly quick, so it lets us get to the rim easier."
If the Wildcats can continue winning, they face three games in three days. Hatch said the team will need bench players to step up in a big way if South Summit is to keep advancing.
"It’s difficult, especially since we’re not very deep on our bench," he said. "In the past, I think the key to our success in the state tournament has come from playing guys who don’t play a lot and having them step up. We’re going to have to do that this year, too. Who that guy is, I don’t know. It might be Brandon Dansie, Parker Grajek or even a freshman."
South Summit’s quarterfinal game against Beaver is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.
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