OGDEN — Fremont's Tate Lewis made his presence felt very early Monday afternoon in the first round of the 5A state tournament.
On Alta's first trip down the floor the 6-foot-7 center swatted not one, but two shots. It set the tone for what was a very frustrating afternoon for the defending state champs.
Fremont's tenacious defense and Lewis' presence in the paint forced Alta into just 24-percent shooting as the Silver Wolves overcame their own offensive deficiencies in a 53-41 victory at the Dee Events Center.
"Offensively we didn't look too great, but we hang our hat on defense anyway," said Fremont coach Corey Melaney.
Fremont will try and punch its ticket to the 5A semifinals for the second straight year when it faces the winner of Riverton-West on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
Monday's game wasn't pretty, but Melaney didn't expect it to be against an Alta team that prides itself on defense as well.
"I thought it would be pretty physical, and that's what I told the guys. It will be like a region battle, very physical, they're not going to let anything easy," said Melaney.
Even though Fremont didn't shoot particularly well (35 percent) it did all the little things well against an overmatched Alta team.
Fremont outrebounded Alta 40-31, blocked eight shots and knocked down 20-of-24 free throw attempts.
Lewis finished with seven of those blocked shots to go along with his 13 points and nine rebounds.
"He's a great shot blocker, and he blocks a lot of shots with his left hand, which for a right-handed player is kind of different, but it's very effective," said Melaney. "He controlled the paint, as did Brock (Smith), and Taylor Montgomery gave us big minutes as well."
Fremont had eight different players log at least 10 minutes, depth Fremont takes great pride in. A couple of football injuries made it all possible. Starters Aaron Van Woerkom and Lewis were both injured late in the football season which forced them to miss the first month of the basketball season. Others stepped up in their absence, and Fremont is a deep team as a result.
After a sluggish first quarter, Fremont started making a few shots in the second quarter and outscored Alta 10-2 to a take a 19-10 lead. It extended the lead to 27-14 midway into the third quarter before a technical foul on Rowdy Stucki gave the Hawks a little life.2 comments on this story
The Hawks came up empty on four possessions to start the fourth, however, and Fremont methodically pulled away by converting 15 of 18 free throws.
Melaney believes last year's experience in the Dee Events Center, not to mention a deep playoff run by the football team last November, made a big difference on Monday.
Alta had three different players score in double figures in the loss with Zack Zdunich leading the way with 13 points.