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High school boys basketball: Best team in the state? Bountiful dismantles Woods Cross to make its case

Published: Thursday, Sept. 3 2015 3:05 a.m. MDT

Woods Cross' Travis Howey, left, and Bountiful's Andrew Lund fight for a rebound as Woods Cross High School and Bountiful High School play boys basketball Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Bountiful. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Woods Cross' Travis Howey, left, and Bountiful's Andrew Lund fight for a rebound as Woods Cross High School and Bountiful High School play boys basketball Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Bountiful. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

BOUNTIFUL — Both JV squads arrived late to Bountiful High Wednesday night after finishing their game down the road, which only delayed the inevitable. The varsity game may have started late, but it certainly ended early.

Resembling a No. 1 seed-vs.-No. 16 seed matchup in the NCAA tournament, Bountiful — appearing superior in every aspect — dismantled Woods Cross, 82-58, and strengthened its argument as Utah’s top team of 2014.

“I told the guys, usually we don’t get too high or too low after a game, but I said, 'Go enjoy this,'” Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell said. “It’s always fun to beat a rival; you’re in high school, you got to go enjoy it — but not too much because we’ve got another game Friday.”

Sam Merrill scored a game-high 21 points and, not far behind, Zac Seljaas finished with 19 points. The two combined for six 3-pointers and one monster transition alley-oop dunk from Merrill to Seljaas to cushion Bountiful’s lead to 25-17 with 6:58 remaining in the second quarter.

Bountiful's Jeff Pollard shoots past Woods Cross' Tanner Muhlestein as Woods Cross High School and Bountiful High School play boys basketball Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Bountiful. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Bountiful's Jeff Pollard shoots past Woods Cross' Tanner Muhlestein as Woods Cross High School and Bountiful High School play boys basketball Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Bountiful. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

“We’ve been wanting to get one of those all year,” Merrill said. “I’ve had a couple where I can, but I’ve been too scared. It was there and the crowd was going and it was a great dunk.”

The Braves opened the first quarter on a 12-4 run capped by center Jeff Pollard’s free throw before Xequille Harry answered with five quick points. Pollard finished with 14 points, while Harry connected on three shots from distance en route to his co-team-high 11 points shared with Jackson Pohlman.

Woods Cross missed production from its two leading scorers, Garret Grant and Luke Jowers, who were held to 13 points combined — more than double below their collective average.

“We’re getting there,” Maxwell said of the Braves' overall performance. “We’ve got a little bit of work to do. We had some turnovers I don’t like and we missed some shots that we probably could make and we didn’t rotate on defense a few times. Those are things we’ve got to work on, but I’m still pleased. These are high school kids — if it was the NBA I’d be mad at them. These guys are still improving.”

Bountiful's Ryan Curtis is tied up by Woods Cross' Xequille Harry, left, and Garrett Grant as Woods Cross High School and Bountiful High School play boys basketball Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Bountiful. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Bountiful's Ryan Curtis is tied up by Woods Cross' Xequille Harry, left, and Garrett Grant as Woods Cross High School and Bountiful High School play boys basketball Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Bountiful. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

After Harry trimmed Woods Cross' deficit in the first half, Merrill scored 13 points in the ensuing six minutes to reposition the Braves’ advantage, 36-23.

“I’ve been struggling (shooting) a lot, so I wanted to get in really quickly, but mostly that’s what they were giving me,” Merrill said. “They were giving me the outside shot, thinking I couldn’t make it, and I hit a couple to help us out a lot.”

Leading 45-27 at the break, Bountiful opened the third quarter on a 12-2 run spearheaded by two Seljaas treys and eventually outscored the Wildcats 23-7 in the period to put the game on ice.

“I think we were because we knew they were going to come out at halftime,” Pollard said when asked if he was surprised by the lopsided outcome. “We were expected and we came out full force and overpowered them.”

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