He's played whatever role we've asked him to do. He's a guy who wants to hit big shots and is ready. You love to have guys like that in your locker room.
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SANDY — American Fork boys basketball coach Doug Meacham believes Austin Waddoups is one of the most underrated players in the state.
On a team with Utah State commits Quincy Bair and Marcel Davis, it's easy for the unheralded Waddoups to fly under the radar.
That certainly wasn't the case Wednesday night at Alta, where Waddoups showed off his offensive and defensive prowess in scoring a game-high 20 points to lead American Fork to the 57-50 road victory.
"He's played whatever role we've asked him to do. He's a guy who wants to hit big shots and is ready. You love to have guys like that in your locker room," said Meacham.
In typical good-teammate fashion, Waddoups deflected praise to his teammates.
"Quincy opened up a bunch of stuff for us and is one of the best players in the state. Marcel is also one of the best players in the state. I got Zac Hunter on the inside banging, and Danny (Beddes) and Ryan Andrus, they're all just helping us out and helping me get some shots," said Waddoups.
American Fork got a big scare when Waddoups tumbled into the scorers' table in the final minute and got up clutching his non-shooting left hand.
He eventually left Alta with his wrist wrapped heavily in ice, but that didn't stop him from shutting the door on the Hawks first. With his team clinging to a 51-48 lead, Waddoups made six straight free throws in the final minute to increase AF's lead to 57-48.
No. 3 American Fork shot an impressive 19-of-24 from the free-throw line in improving its record to 4-0 this preseason. Alta, meanwhile, struggled from the line, shooting just 2-of-8 as it fell to 3-2.
As good as the Cavemen were in the second half, they certainly had their struggles early on.
American Fork was impatient offensively throughout the first half, turning it over nine times as the Hawks built a 28-22 lead at the half as RJ Beard, Tanner Jones, Jarett Anderson and Carter Heslop all knocked 3-pointers in the second quarter.
"We were turning it over too much. We were giving them too many uncontested shots. I think we just clamped down on 'D' in the second half," said Bair.
Meacham had his team come out in a full-court press to start the third quarter, and after the Hawks increased their lead to 32-25 early in the quarter, the press started to make a big difference.
American Fork closed the quarter on a 17-5 run and never trailed the rest of the way even though Alta cut the lead to one on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter.2 comments on this story
"I thought that was the key for us. I thought we sped them up and got them a little rattled," said Meacham. "We have some athletic guys, and you're going to give up some layups in a press, but hopefully you get them taking some tough jump shots that they just missed luckily."
Before he iced the game from the line in the final 54 seconds, Waddoups turned a 47-46 lead into a 51-46 lead with 1:52 remaining on a pair of clutch baskets.
Waddoups increased his scoring average to 16.5 ppg after Wednesday's performance, and it's hard to imagine him flying under the radar much longer.