I consider it a success right now — just advancing. I’m elated right now. I’m really emotional. The guys stepped up and did everything I asked today. —Kearns boys basketball coach Dan Cosby
SALT LAKE CITY — Kearns boys basketball coach Dan Cosby exited the locker room tucked underneath the Huntsman Center Monday morning in adulation. He hesitated momentarily, vividly emotional, and turned back around.
He didn’t want to leave. Not after what his team had accomplished.
For the first time since 1972 — a year famously remember for the Watergate scandal — the Cougars advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 4A State Tournament with a 56-47 win over Spanish Fork.
“I consider it a success right now — just advancing,” said Cosby as he choked back tears. “I’m elated right now. I’m really emotional. The guys stepped up and did everything I asked today.”
Kearns guard Sunday Owda, who finished with a game-high 21 points, echoed the same sentiments.
“This is the first time I’ve ever gone to the second game in the playoffs. Last night, I was thinking, and I told myself, ‘I want it more than anybody else.’ (Coach) always asks, ‘What is our story going to be?’ I guess we’re making history right now.”
Owda elevated his performance in the second half, particularly at the free-throw line where he contributed to the Cougars connecting on 17 of 19 (19 of 24 overall) freebies down the stretch. Teammate Bushmen Ebet added 16 points, including two thunderous dunks, one of which resulted in a first-quarter technical foul for hanging on the rim.
After the technical, Kearns flat-lined offensively, allowing Spanish Fork capture a seven-point cushion, 25-18, at halftime. The Dons outscored Kearns 12-4 in the second quarter and 9-1 over the final five minutes with the majority of the points coming from the high post.
At the break, Kearns needed adjustments and Cosby had the answer.
“Be more aggressive and stop the entry double pass from getting (to the high post),” he said. “I wanted to force them to the left side because everything they were doing they were going right. That little adjustment and stepping up defensively.”
Ebet responded with an and-one on the opening possession of the third quarter and immediately afterward came up with a steal and dish for a quick five points to trim the deficit to two, 25-23.
“It’s always the third and fourth quarter that I take over,” Ebet said. “So I put the team on my back. That’s what I had to do.”
Trailing 33-31, Owda knocked down consecutive mid-range jumpers before Ebet emphatically flushed a one-handed dunk for a 37-33 advantage with one minute left in the third.
While holding the lead in the fourth quarter, Kearns discarded its up-tempo identity in favor of patience, forcing Spanish Fork into a free-throw shooting contest. The Dons threatened momentarily, but missed several gimmes at the rim with Kearns’ length and athleticism altering the trajectory.
The Cougars will face Orem Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.