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Nick Wagner, Deseret News
Salem Hills guard James Nelson scores a layup past Skyridge guard Ethan Ilunga during a UHSAA basketball game at Skyridge in Lehi on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016.
We're real excited to come out tonight against a very good Salem Hills team and come away with a win. It's a great night and we're excited about our potential here. —Skyridge coach Jeff Gardner

LEHI — Skyridge football largely exceeded expectations in its first year — proving very competitive in a tough Region 7 — and the basketball program is looking to do much of the same. Getting off to a good start is key to meeting or surpassing expectations, and the Falcons did exactly that on Wednesday — taking a 68-61 win over visiting Salem Hills.

Marcus Draney led the way for Skyridge, scoring a game-high 25, with former Lehi teammate Chase Berry contributing 19 more. The duo played big in getting the Falcons off to a comfortable lead and then staving off the hard-charging Skyhawks to secure the first win in program history.

"We're real excited to come out tonight against a very good Salem Hills team and come away with a win. It's a great night and we're excited about our potential here," said Skyridge coach Jeff Gardner.

A big key to Wednesday's win was a big 12-0 run to end the first half.

The run came right after Gardner called a timeout with just over three minutes remaining in the half and his team up 26-18. Although enjoying a good-sized lead, his team had just given up an uncontested lay-up after not getting back efficiently on the defensive end.

Gardner directed his team to pick it up defensively during the timeout and his players largely responded.

"Draney, Berry and (Braydon) Cuff were very active with some steals and some run-outs, and we were able to turn them over," Gardner said. "The way (Salem Hills) was shooting the ball — we figured we had to turn them over some to get a little separation there."

Skyridge forged a 38-19 lead at the half, before Salem Hills came storming out of the gates in the second. The Skyhawks slowly chipped away at the lead, but the closest they'd get was six points as the Falcons were able to answer the big challenge presented.

"That's a good team there. They return four starters and we knew they'd keep coming," Gardner said. "You have to give a lot of credit to them for how they came out and wouldn't quit. But you then credit us for not letting it get too close, although they did get it down to six points at one point late."

Salem Hills was led on the night by James Nelson and Kaleb DeGraffenried, who scored 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Gardner came away happy with the win and excited for his program's future.

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"It was exciting tonight, and hat's off to our great crowd and student section. There's a lot of excitement here, so it's real good to start off with a win to maybe continue that excitement," Gardner said. "We still have a lot to work on, but overall we're happy with what we were able to do out there."

Next up for the 1-0 Falcons is a trip to Idaho to play in a tournament this weekend. Salem Hills, which falls to 0-2 with the loss, will look to rebound on the road against West this Thursday night.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney