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High school boys basketball: Bountiful bounces back at Jerry Tarkanian Classic

Published: Friday, Dec. 20 2013 9:20 p.m. MST

LAS VEGAS — You never know exactly what you’re going to get in out-of-state tournaments.

Teams that stay in the winners bracket are generally guaranteed games against top competition, which is the main attraction of such tournaments. Lose, and the level of competition can vary wildly in the so-called “losers bracket.”

Bountiful experienced the wide variety of competition that exists inside the losers bracket during the second day of competition Friday at the Jerry Tarkanian Classic.

After losing to Camino Real (Calif.) on a last-second 3-pointer Thursday, the Braves were matched up against Durango (Nev.) Friday morning.

The game proved to be a mismatch.

Bountiful bombarded the Trailblazers in every which way and came away with a 92-58 win. The team was firing on all cylinders from the start and led 55-34 at the half.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a team that scored 55 points in a 16-minute half, but we’ll certainly take it,” said Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell. “I think our guys were upset about the first-day result and we took it out on what was lesser competition than what we faced that first day.”

Maxwell pulled his starters with a full eight minutes remaining and his team up 80-50. Zac Seljaas and Sam Merrill again led the way for the Braves with 25 and 20 points, respectively.

“We were mad about losing that first game — no question,” Merrill, who signed with Utah State, said. “You want to play the best teams in tournaments like this and when you lose, you don’t get to. We definitely wanted to change that today.”

With just three hours of rest, Bountiful took the court again to face a much sterner test in Long Beach Poly (Calif.) The first half was played on even turns before the Braves broke away in the second half for a 62-52 win.

“The big difference in the second half was we were able to spread the court and keep our heads up and find people,” Maxwell said. “We took advantage of mismatches that worked in our favor. ... You want to get better in the preseason and I think we just did.”

A lot of the mismatches were created by Merrill (6 foot 4) and Seljaas (6 foot 7). Merrill brings a physical brand of play to the backcourt, which consistently creates problems for the opposition, while Seljaas can play — and more importantly — defend most positions.

“I haven’t lost too many games with Sam Merrill — that’s one thing I know for certain,” said Maxwell. “He just does everything so well and he’s just a winner. He knows how to win games in any way he can and he’s simply a phenomenal athlete and a complete pleasure to coach.”

As for Seljaas, who is a BYU commitment, he’s still learning and finding out how good he can be.

“He’s just starting his junior year for us, but his ability to do multiple things and be versatile is a real strength for him,” Maxwell said. “He’s terrific and his upside is truly exciting. He’s long, but he can handle it very well, which allows him to run the point for us.”

With the win, Bountiful advances to take on Pinnacle (Ariz.).

In other action:

Lone Peak couldn't hold a lead late and fell to Redondo Union (Calif.) 67-63. TJ Haws and Frank Jackson scored 25 points apiece.

The Knights rebounded a few hours later with a 62-50 win over Constitution (Penn.). Jackson led all scorers with 20.

Orem continued its stellar showing with two wins Friday. The Tigers took down Thunder Ridge (Col.) in the morning 58-55 and capped that off with a blowout win over Cathedral Prep (PA.) 78-44. Dalton Nixon led the way with 27 points and nine rebounds against Thunder Ridge and 19 points against Cathedral.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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