OGDEN — The Murray Spartans had a rough first half.
In their matchup with the Copper Hills Grizzlies in the first round of the 5A state tournament, the Spartans couldn't do anything right. They couldn't shoot — they were 26.9 percent from the field — they let a smaller team outrebound them — the Grizzlies had six more boards at the midpoint — and they only got to the foul line four times while struggling with foul trouble themselves.
The halftime break couldn't come quick enough.
But the Spartans, trailing by one point at intermission, took the messages of coach Jason Workman to heart and responded in the final 16 minutes, eventually pulling away with the 52-38 victory at the Dee Events Center Monday evening.
"Our biggest message was to limit them to one shot," Workman said. "(Giving up) too many offensive rebounds, being outrebounded when we have size like we do, was embarrassing for us. We tried to convey that to the kids, and I think they took it personal."
The Spartans left the locker room with a different energy, evening the rebounding difference — 35 to 31 for Copper Hills — nearly doubling their shooting percentage — 50 percent — and attacking the basket much more efficiently — they were 14-for-17 — in the second half.
"They came out and answered. It's a tough situation," Workman said of finding contributions with key players in foul trouble. "There (were) still a lot of minutes with those guys on the bench, but I thought they handled it a little bit smarter the second half."
Grizzly senior Colton Neff was a major reason the Spartans had to deal with players racking up early fouls, particularly big men Orhan Agovic and David Collette.
"Not many people drive and finish with contact as well as he does," Workman said of Neff. "He causes some problems, and he does a good job of getting people in foul trouble."
Neff finished with 15 points and three rebounds, however, he made just 9-of-17 freebies.
For the Spartan offense, Collette finished with 22 points, 14 of which came after halftime, as well as seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Point guard Riley Grandinetti added 15 points, six rebounds, an assists, a steal, and a block.2 comments on this story
Though the team found a rhythm on offense, the Spartans still had trouble from long range, hitting just one 3-pointer on 10 attempts.
"You have to play through those first-game jitters," Workman said. "Nobody shoots well first round, I don't know why. We had a good time slot at 5:50 p.m., but we still shot horribly. I don't think we have to change anything. I thought we settled for things too early (today), and I think they learned from that."
Murray meets Brighton in the quarterfinals Wednesday at 12:45 p.m.