SALT LAKE CITY — When coach Mike Maxwell led his Bountiful boys basketball team into the Judge Memorial gymnasium on Wednesday evening, he expected a battle.
With one player injured and another fighting the flu, he was already down by two.
But sparked by a halftime talk and a defensive adjustment, the top-ranked team in 4A battled through a game full of adversity to pull away and defeat the Bulldogs, 73-44, in the Region 6 opener.
“I knew they were going to be tough,” said Maxwell, whose team saw five tied scores through the first nine minutes of play and held only a five-point advantage, 25-20, at the half.
Up until that point, the Braves were playing an aggressive man-to-man defense and junior Zach Seljaas, the team’s second-highest scorer, had yet to step onto the floor.
“He was sick as a dog,” Maxwell said of Seljaas. “He’s been throwing up for a good solid day. He stopped about an hour ago, so we walked him in here.”
The Bountiful coaching staff had no intention of playing the 6-foot-7 center until Pollard, his 6-foot-8 replacement, was forced to leave the game after colliding with another player while diving for a rebound.
“All of the sudden we’re losing guys, (and) he had to step in and play,” Maxwell said. “He did what he could, but he’s about half-speed.”
In addition to suiting up Seljaas, Maxwell switched his team out of its man defense and into its modified 2-3 zone.
“It’s an interesting 2-3 and people have to figure it out,” Maxwell said. “It’s not a church zone and it’s tough to play against if you haven’t seen it and worked at it. I think we caught them a little by surprise with it.”
It was a move that immediately highlighted the Braves’ offensive firepower.
Jordan Bleak scored twice in the first seconds of the third quarter, and then he and Trevor Lloyd combined to outscore the Bulldogs 14-2 over a span of 2:30. Lloyd and Bleak each hit 3-pointers; Lloyd then sunk a layup after finding an open lane on a back-cut; and then each player hit another 3-pointer before Sam Merrill hit four consecutive foul shots to close the quarter, 48-27.
“(Maxwell) said, 'Rebound and run.' Those were the two words he used,” senior Ryan Curtis said of his coach’s halftime speech. “He said we needed to shape up our defense and then execute on offense —obviously, we did.”
“Frankly, our guys just did a great job; all guys did. It took a team effort to beat them here,” Maxwell said. “They’ll be ready next time we play them, so we’re going to have to have something else ready.”
Both teams substituted heavily in the final quarter, and both teams continued shooting well from behind the 3-point line. Seljaas hit two 3s and another bucket to total eight points in approximately 13 minutes of game time.
Bleak led Bountiful with 19 points, Merrill added 16 and Lloyd finished with 11.
Tanner Riley, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, led Judge with 12 points. He started the game on fire, scoring the Bulldogs’ first six points. Riley remained on the floor throughout the first three quarters except when he was required by rule to sit out following a medical timeout, which was called to allow the Judge trainers to put his dislocated pinkie back in place. Riley returned to the floor on the next dead ball.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.
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