KEARNS — Kearns center Dayon Goodman knew he had a sizeable advantage over Taylorsville. He had heard it from Cougar coach Dan Cosby relentlessly during practice leading up to Tuesday’s matchup against the Warriors.
“My coach had me work on post moves this whole week because there was going to be a size disadvantage (for Taylorsville). I’m like 4 inches taller than their tallest player,” Goodman said.
Goodman, of course, was only being modest on the 4 inches. In fact, at 6-foot-8, he was 5 inches taller than anyone in Taylorsville’s starting five. The Warriors, riddled with guards, only have one player — a guy that plays sparingly off the bench — remotely comparable to Goodman’s height.
Goodman most definitely took advantage.
The Cougars fed the big fella early, late and often in between, and Goodman ordered up a Combo No. 1 at In-N-Out Burger with his 29-point, 16-rebound "double-double" to put away T-Ville 63-59 at home.
The victory helped Kearns stay well within contention for Region 2 supremacy.
“I think it was a real good win because if we would have lost this game we would have been tied with Taylorsville and Viewmont for second place (in region),” Goodman said. “We didn’t want that. We’re trying to get region champs. We just got to beat Hunter on Friday and we’ll have our chance.”
Goodman put the Cougars up 11-6 early with a hesitation two-dribble hop-step to the cup. He scored nine of Kearns' first 11 points.
In what proved to be a reoccurring theme throughout four quarters, seemingly every time Kearns built a cushion, Taylorsville closed the gap behind the efforts of Sidney Freeman and Jevin Warren.
After five straight points from Freeman, off four Kearns’ turnovers, Warren pulled T-Ville within one, 20-19, with 3:50 remaining in the first half. Then, after yet another turnover, the Warriors captured their first lead, 22-20, when Kearns was whistled for a technical foul.
The Cougars responded with an 8-2 run to close the half behind Goodman and strong contributions from Bushman Ebet, whom Goodman referred to as “a beast” and “the best defensive player on the team.”
“It wasn’t really new because we dropped back in a couple of games — everybody gets their runs,” Goodman said of Taylorsville inching back throughout the game. “Basketball is game of runs, so you just got to press on.”
Kearns (11-7, 4-1) enjoyed a 7-0 run of its own to start the second half beginning with an old-fashioned three-point play by Henry Rodriguez for a 35-24 advantage at the five-minute mark in the third.
If the Cougars could have squeezed the pumpkin they would have been in great shape from that point forward. But, suddenly like a fast-acting disease, Kearns coughed up the orange basketball 16 times in the final two quarters alone — finishing with 24 turnovers.
“Because they were pressing us, that got us into a lot of turnovers,” Goodman explained. “We need to go over the press and we’ll be good because that’s what Hunter does — they’re top in region. That’s what we need to get used to. We need to be able to limit our turnovers. We really need to work during practice tomorrow.”
Because of the abundance of Kearns miscues, Freeman went to work for the Warriors (8-10, 2-3). The marksman was unconscious from the perimeter after establishing his runner in the paint early.
“We were letting (Freeman) get into the middle so we sagged off (him) a little bit and he was hot tonight,” Goodman said. “We need to get in his face more.”
Freeman scored 15 of his team-high 28 points (five 3-pointers) in the second half and with 4:47 left in the fourth, he dropped a bomb from the Cougars' emblem to cut the deficit to 48-44.
“We just kept our heads up,” Goodman said. “We felt like we could win this game — we can beat any team in our region we feel like.”
On the ensuing possession, Goodman charged the lane and gently lofted a floater that rimmed off, but immediately followed up with a garbage layup. As the Warriors inbounded on auto-pilot, Ebet doubled-back and caught them napping for an uncontested layup to give the Cougars a 52-44 lead.
Freeman kept things interesting with eight points in the final four minutes, including a desperation 3 ball with one second remaining, but the margin proved too steep to overcome.
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