RICHFIELD — At the end of the first quarter of its opening round game against Milford at the 1A boys basketball tournament, top-ranked Rich was looking rusty.
They did lead 14-11, but the Rebels had hardly been convincing with the way they were playing.
And then the second quarter happened.
The Rebels poured it on at both ends of the floor in the second period, showing the assembled folks inside the Sevier Valley Center just how lethal they can be when they put it all together. Rich outscored Milford 23-8 in the decisive second quarter and coasted the rest of the way to eventually win, 67-55, on Wednesday.
"We've told these kids all year long that you win championships by playing defense, and that's what they did in the second quarter," said Rich coach Ashley Brown. "They got in the passing lanes and deflected some balls and we got 'em. That's definitely what turned the game."
Star center Caden Andersen finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds to lead the way for Rich from start to finish, and he was particularly solid in the second quarter.
Indeed, Andersen had nine of his 22 points in the second, and his teammates made baskets from all over the court.
The second-quarter offensive salvo, however, was made possible by what Rich did at the other end of the floor.
Rich got all over Milford in the second quarter, holding the Tigers to just eight points in the period and only 19 for the half.
That fact wasn't lost on Andersen afterward.
"We played a really good first half defensively," said Andersen. "We held them to only 19 points. With 19 points, it's big. If you can hold teams to 19 points, you're gonna win a lot of basketball games.
"Our key all year has been defense, and it paid off."
To that end, Andersen was vital, as he anchored Rich's defensive efforts and just did everything that the superstar always does.
"There's no question he's been a big part of how successful we've been the past few years," said Brown. "You know what you're gonna get every single night. He's gonna give everything he's got."
Wednesday's opening round win, however, was not all smooth sailing for the Rebels. After leading by close to 20 points for most of the evening, they let Milford go on a run midway through the fourth quarter that made things mildly interesting when they shouldn't have been.
The Tigers got as close as seven points, 58-51, with 1:25 left before Rich made enough free throws late to win by double-digits.
Bo Thomas, who had 10 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth, led Milford
Brown was understandably disappointed with the way his guys played late, but he pointed out that Milford had a lot to do with it.
"No (I'm not happy), but you gotta give credit to Milford," said Brown. "They didn't give up. They kept pushin'. They just never gave up and just kept battlin'."
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