High school basketball: Big first half propels Emery to win over San Juan

Published: Friday, Jan. 31 2014 8:35 p.m. MST

CASTLE DALE — Emery’s huge first half, where the Spartans played some of the best basketball of the season, propelled it to a region win Friday night over San Juan, 66-54.

Gavin McDermott was big once again with a new career-high 23 points while adding seven boards. McDermott had a monster first half with 19 points and seven boards before getting into foul trouble. Bailey Faimalo continued his consistent play, scoring 18 points, dishing out five assists and grabbing four steals. Dillon Wilstead also scored in double figures with 11 points to go with seven assists.

The Spartans have started strong throughout the season, and this game was no exception with Emery leading 10-2 early after some stellar play by Faimalo, who had the first two baskets of the game. Despite allowing two easy 3-pointers from San Juan’s DiQuan Lopez, Emery had a very strong first quarter and led 20-13.

The second quarter was all about pounding the ball down low for the Spartans. The team was able to get McDermott and Drexler Tanner some good looks in the paint and the Spartans crashed the boards on their way to a big lead. Emery played good ball and the flow and rhythm were there. Another strong quarter led Emery to a 40-26 lead at halftime.

“Our first half was great. I think a high intensity level in preparation helps, to just go out there and play hard from the get go,” said Tanner, who had a game-high 13 rebounds and six points. “Since it was a home game, we wanted to show everyone how good we can be.”

In the third quarter, the Spartan offense slowed considerably. San Juan went on a 13-6 run and cut the lead to single digits. The Broncos were able to hit shots, especially from deep, to get back into the game. Emery shot poorly from behind the 3-point line in the game, going 1 for 17. However at the end of the third, the Spartans still had a 51-41 lead.

Emery went on a run in the fourth and was able to close the game out. Free-throw shooting, which had been a major problem for the Spartans, was good, with the team going 15 of 19 from behind the stripe, helping Emery cruise to a region win.

“We need to stay humble, just keep working hard and stay focused,” Wilstead said.

“We are playing hard but not shooting especially well, coach Todd Jeffs said. "Last night we had some lapses in the second half but ironically our free-throw shooting helped out.”

Jeffs earned his 400th win as coach of Emery High. With this win, he is 19 games behind ninth place on the all-time Utah high school coaches list for wins and moves into sixth place on the Utah high school all-time wins list.

Emery’s next game will be against North Sevier Wednesday on the road.

Hayden Johnson is an aspiring sports writer. Check out his blog at hjsportsblog.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @HJ_3207. Contact him at hayden@emeryschools.org.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company