South Summit tops Manti with strong defensive effort
Wildcats still hope to eliminate turnovers despite win
Ever since the South Summit High School boys’ basketball team narrowly squeaked by Park City High School in mid-December, the Wildcats haven’t been the same.
Head Coach Dusty Hatch, who said the game against the Miners was one of his team’s better performances this season, hadn’t seen the same kind of defensive effort he’s used to from his players in the games in-between then and now. Since that game, the Wildcats went 1-2, including a one-point loss to Union, a team that Hatch and the rest of the coaching staff felt they should beat.
But that all changed when South Summit hosted Manti on Friday evening at South Summit High School. While not a perfect performance, the Wildcats, thanks to a strong defensive front and well-balanced scoring attack, held off the Templars in the fourth quarter to win 62-56.
“We really needed a win because we haven’t been playing well,” Hatch said. “I thought that was probably one of our better games that we played and even in that game, we turned the ball over. That seems to be our Achilles heel.”
That’s a fair assessment from the Head Coach, as South Summit committed 27 turnovers in the win. This is right around the team’s average of 24 per game, which is entirely too high for a team looking to be competitive in 2A this season.
“That’s been a real struggle for us that we’re trying to clean up,” Hatch said.
Leading the way for the Wildcats was Jason McNeil, who registered a game-high 14 points. Nick Beasley and Kai Rockhill each scored 11, as 10 different Wildcats were able to reach the box score via points.
Though not the biggest player on the court, Rockhill’s 11 points was a spark off the bench came at a time0 South Summit really needed them.
In the second quarter, the Templars started to heat up from outside, threatening to pull away early in the game. Enter Rockhill, who came into the game and immediately made a contribution. For every three Manti would hit, Rockhill would seemingly have an answer, as nine of his points (three three-pointers) came during that stretch to keep the Wildcats in the game.
For Hatch, Rockhill’s performance isn’t surprising, but it’s been a long time coming.
“Kai and I have spoken on several different occasions about how he needs to go out and do the things that make him good as a player,” Hatch said. “He’s kind of a freelance player. He shoots well off of the dribble. In the previous games, he’s kind of been hesitant to do some of those things because I don’t think he felt comfortable in that role. But against Manti, he just came out and played loose and he was a big factor in our winning that game.”
With the win, the Wildcats are glad to get back on the winning side of things. Hatch attributes the positive play to a practice day last week following the Christmas holiday. There was no running, no whistles, no shooting. Instead, coaches and players sat down for two hours and dissected game film, as Hatch had a point to make.
“The biggest thing, at least for me as a coach, I felt like we needed to correct our urgency on the defensive end,” Hatch said. “I didn’t feel like we played with enough urgency or enough toughness on the defensive end.
“I think the guys, after watching film, they understood what I was talking about. That’s kind of our resolution for the New Year; we are going to play with more urgency on the defensive end. I think that started in the Manti game.”
With North Sanpete scheduled to visit Kamas on Friday, South Summit will practice each day leading up to the game, as it looks to continue its winning ways ahead of region play.
“I think this will be a good week for us,” Hatch said. “It will be very telling for our team. This will be key for us to determine how we’re going to play, if we’re going to be soft or going to be tougher.”
Tip-off between the Wildcats and North Sanpete on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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