COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Copper Hills stopped the bleeding Tuesday night.
The former No. 1 in 5A, the Grizzlies got back to basics defensively in rolling to the wire-to-wire 56-37 victory over Brighton in a critical Region 3 game.
Copper Hills was in danger of falling all the way to a No. 3 seed in region with a loss, but avoided that fate in impressive fashion by limiting Brighton to 26 percent shooting and a season-low 37 points.
After his team surrendered 85 points to Taylorsville just four nights earlier, Copper Hills coach Andrew Blanchard was thrilled with the timing of the defensive tenacity.
“Give credit to Taylorsville, they came out competed that night, but defensively on every level, we’re not like we used to be. We really had to go back and watch film of who we were earlier in the season defensively to do better,” said Blanchard.
Defense was the catalyst to Copper Hills’ 12-0 start this season, but not lately.
In fact in the four games prior to beating Brighton, the Grizzlies were 2-2 after allowing 75, 52, 66 and 85 points respectively.
“It’s been a disappointing region for us as far as defensively. We’ve really let teams get a lot of points,” said Blanchard.
That wasn’t the case on Tuesday. Copper Hills got after it defensively from the opening tip both along the perimeter and in the paint jumping out to a quick 18-5 lead after the first quarter. At the half, it led 32-16.
“Our whole emphasis this week has been defense and toughness 'cause we haven’t been doing very good. So we came out and tried to punch them in the mouth first, and we did that and never looked back from there,” said Stockton Shorts, who led the Grizzlies with 15 points.
Leading 44-25 heading into the fourth quarter, Copper Hills sputtered offensively over a four-minute stretch and Brighton took advantage with a 7-0 run to trim the deficit to 44-32.
Copper Hills’ Charlie Olsen responded with a four-point play with 4:04 remaining in the game to quell any hope of a rally.
Even though his team committed quite a few fouls, Blanchard was OK with the whistles because it meant his players were aggressive in their quest to rediscover the defensive swagger. That commitment was most apparent on the perimeter as Copper Hills didn’t allow Brighton’s shooters any freedom along the perimeter in holding them to one 3-pointer.
In Copper Hills’ overtime win over Brighton last month, the Bengals made seven 3-pointers. In fact, during its recent four-game rough stretch prior to Tuesday, Copper Hills’ opponents had been averaging nearly eight 3-pointers per game.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org