You could see nerves with quite a few of our kids and you could see them with their kids. I thought it was great for us to get off to a big start so they could relax a little bit and just play. —Bountiful head coach Joel Burton

TAYLORSVILLE — As the first game of the 4A state tournament, the Bountiful girls basketball team was feeling a little nervous. Which was exactly why the Braves wanted to get a strong start, to put some points on the board and ease the tension.

In spite of shaky knees, Bountiful did just that, jumping out on two big scoring runs to start the game and then the second half and run away with the 62-37 victory over Spanish Fork in the opening round of the tournament Monday morning at Salt Lake Community College.

“You could see nerves with quite a few of our kids and you could see them with their kids,” said Bountiful head coach Joel Burton. “I thought it was great for us to get off to a big start so they could relax a little bit and just play.”

The Braves scored the first 12 points of the game before Spanish Fork hit a baseline 3-pointer with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter. The Dons then battled through the second period and trailed by just 10 points, 25-15, at the midpoint, but Bountiful scored 16 straight points to start the second half. It wasn’t until just 22.4 seconds remained in the third period that Spanish Fork hit two foul shots for its only points of the quarter.

“We changed our defense as we came into this thing, trying to make sure we were adjusting to their shooters,” Burton said. “I thought the same opportunities were there second quarter as we had first and third. The girls just played great defense, helped each other out a bunch, and you can never complain about having 6-foot-4 behind you to block shots.”

Sophomore center Kennedy Redding led the Braves from the inside out on both ends of the floor. She totaled 13 points on the offensive end and blocked or altered countless shots on defense.

“She changed a lot of their shots. They kept attacking the rim but they’d get in and have to change over the top of her,” Burton said. “She’s a nightmare for most teams because there’s very few teams that match up with her.

He added that the sophomore’s play throughout the season has had a large impact on the Braves being able to play in the tournament Monday.

“We felt like she was a difference between trying to make a push down here toward the state championship or not,” Burton said. “I’m awfully glad, and awfully lucky, to have her on our team.”

Sophomore guard Amy Chidester scored 13 points for Bountiful, all of them in the second half, and junior forward Liz Larson added eight points.

“Came off the bench and was gigantic for us with what she did,” Burton said. “(She) gave us a little added scoring punch and added length and speed.”

The Dons were led senior guard McKinley Brinkerhoff, who had a team-high 10 points with two 3-pointers.

Bountiful will meet Timpanogos in the quarterfinal round Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

sthomas@desnews.com

Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.