He’s a special kid. He’s fantastic. He’s long, he’s athletic and you don’t realize how athletic he is until he gets out there. —Bingham coach Jake Schroeder, on Samuta Avea
SALT LAKE CITY — Yoeli Childs is Bingham's premier player, but Thursday's 71-57 win over American Fork in the 5A state quarterfinals, proved the Miners have far more than their dominant 6-foot-8 man in the middle.
With Childs proving relatively quiet, and a bit hampered with an injury through the first three quarters, his teammates, particularly forward Samuta Avea, picked up the slack.
Avea provided 24 points and 13 rebounds, both of them game-highs for either team. The 6-foot-6 junior proved aggressive on both ends, giving the Cavemen all sorts of trouble.
“He’s a special kid,” said Bingham coach Jake Schroeder of Avea. “He’s fantastic. He’s long, he’s athletic and you don’t realize how athletic he is until he gets out there. It’s not that crazy vertical, it’s just that lateral quickness — that second jump he’s got. When he’s that active and gets his hands on that many balls, it makes us a lot better.”
According to Avea, he just tries to do whatever is needed to win games.
“I try to grab everything,” Avea said. “I’m doing anything to help my team no matter what. Whether it be scoring or grabbing boards, and I knew Yoeli was a little banged up (today), so I focused on picking up the boards a little bit.”
Bingham led throughout and was seemingly on cruise control until the end of the third quarter.
With the Miners leading 49-33 with just over a minute left in the third, Amercian Fork ripped off a 12-0 run to cut the lead to 49-45 with just under six minutes remaining in regulation.
Schroeder immediately called timeout at that point to regather his troops and encourage them to get back to basics.
“Coach knows how to bring us together and he called timeout at the perfect time,” Avea said. “He got us together and let us know that we just needed to keep doing what we were earlier in the game.”
Bingham responded with an 8-0 run out of the timeout to extend the lead to 57-45 with just under three minutes remaining. Defensive stops, decent foul-shooting and second-chance opportunities fueled the run, according to Schroeder.
“They cut it to four and I challenged our guys and we kind of did what we did,” Schroeder said. “We weren’t that pretty offensively, but we got some extra possessions — I don’t know how many offensive boards we got, but we finally got to the foul line toward the end and finally knocked them down.”
Most of Bingham's offensive boards were taken by Childs and Avea, who pulled down six and four, respectively.
As for Childs, he settled in and proved dominant for most of the final period, finishing the game with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
“Yoeli got beat up tonight. They were really physical with him and it’s probably how I would guard him if I were going against him,” Schroeder said. “But I was proud of how he led us and at the crucial times he did what he needed to do for us.”
With the win, Bingham advances to the 5A state semifinal round where it will take on defending 5A champion Layton on Friday. It's a game Avea and his teammates can hardly wait to get going.
“I want to play (Friday) morning. I’m ready to go,” Avea said. “I just want to keep going and get there. It’s so exciting for all of us right now.”