Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
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WEST VALLEY CITY — The Bingham Miners defeated Hunter, 59-45, on Monday to clinch a second-round spot in the 5A boys state basketball tournament.
The Miners came out hard in the first quarter, doubling Hunter's scoring efforts and building a lead that would be very beneficial in the second due to a Wolverine rally.
Hunter, trailing 20-9 after the first, found their rhythm and took a turn doubling their opponent's offense. Dimitri Saliba drained some long-range jumpers for the Wolverines as they outscored Bingham, 12-6.
The Wolverines were able to get the big blocks early on and stunt Bingham's offense at times with their physicality. However, the hard defense resulted in several free throws for the Miners.
"We like contact," Bingham point guard Cody Benson said. "We like to shoot free throws because we know we can stick them."
The Miners went 8-of-10 from the free-throw line in the first half, which helped them maintain the lead through the Wolverine rally. The Miners held a 26-21 halftime advantage and would carry the momentum into the second half.
Bingham steadily built upon its lead, utilizing speedy guard play and a quick transition offense.
The Wolverines, on the other hand, struggled in the half as they missed short jumpers and were unable to get to the free-throw line. The team shot just four second-half free throws in the half compared to the Miners' 20.
Saliba and Noah Togiai led the Wolverine offense with a combined 30 points. Saliba led with 17 and four rebounds while Togiai added 13 points in the loss.
Benson led the Miners with 19 points and seven rebounds. He went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line and helped to control the tempo of the game. Jake Bagley contributed heftily to the offense as well with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Connor Williams added 14 points, including a crowd-pleasing dunk in transition. Williams returned to the court recently from an injury and his presence has been a great boost to the Miners.
"He adds another whole dimension to the team," Benson said. "He can get to the rim."
He also noted Williams' ability to open things up for his teammates. Williams was modest about his reprised leadership role, but admitted that he's a "drive kind of guy," and that he likes to play tough defense.
Miles Durrant was big on the boards for Bingham, pulling down 15 rebounds in the win.
The Miners advance to the quarterfinals, where they'll face No. 2-ranked West Jordan. Bingham lost to the Jaguars, 75-40, in the preseason and the rematch will be a good measure of how far the Miners have come since the two teams first met.
"I'm excited," Benson said. "They kind of took it to us last time. We're going to give it all we've got."