High school basketball: Emery hangs on to beat Merit Academy in a nail-biter

By Hayden Johnson

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18 2013 10:05 a.m. MST

CASTLE DALE, Emery County — The Spartans notched a win over a tough, good-shooting Merit Academy team Monday night, pulling out a 67-65 win for their third straight win.

Gavin McDermott was huge for Emery in scoring 21 and pulling down 13 boards, and Bailey Faimalo continued his consistent play with 14 points and nine assists.

“It was just a good, tough physical game, where everyone contributed and did a great job," said Emery's Tyson Roper, who came off the bench to score 11 points and grab five rebounds. "We had to make adjustments defensively for how well they were shooting the ball. It was good to see a team that gave us a different look, and showed us some things we need to work on. Overall, it was an exciting win against a great team."

Both teams hit the ground running, scoring six points apiece in the first minute. The competitive back-and-forth play in the first quarter set the pace for a very exciting game. Merit Academy knocked down five threes in the first quarter alone to take a 17-16 lead at the end of the quarter.

The second quarter was much of the same. Emery would build a small lead, just to have Merit Academy come right back with a couple threes. The Spartans eventually took a one-point lead at the break.

Merit Academy pulled away in the third quarter with a couple of big shots by Hunter Davis, who finished with 18 and five three pointers, to lead 48-40.

However, Emery's good defense and team basketball propelled the Spartans on a run to end the third to lead by one at 51-50.

Several of Emery's games have come down to the wire in this early season and this one was no different. The Spartans secured a two-point lead with 8.6 seconds left, thanks to better free-throw shooting down the stretch than in previous games.

Merit Academy got the ball and penetrated toward the rim, but ultimately missed the potential game-tying floater that would have sent the game to overtime.

“On offense we rebounded more aggressively and attacked the rim and on defense we stopped the drive but need to stop the three ball better," McDermott said.

Emery’s next test comes up at home against American Leadership Academy Wednesday, while Merit Academy returns to action Jan. 2 at the Steve Hodson Cancer Classic in Cedar City.

Hayden is an aspiring sports writer. Check out his blog at hjsportsblog.blogspot.com. Follow Hayden on Twitter @HJ_3207. Contact him at hayden@emeryschools.org.