SMITHFIELD Bountiful's players received their coach's message loud and clear Friday night, and the Braves are still very much alive in the Region 5 title race.
"We had to get this one to give us a chance to win a region title," said Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell. "If we didn't get this one we basically didn't have a chance. So if we wanted to get where we wanted to be, this was a game we had to have. We stressed that, and the kids came through."
The result was a 53-46 win for Bountiful over Sky View, two teams that could ill afford another region loss. Last week Bountiful began the week as the No. 1 team in 4A, only to lose to Woods Cross last Friday. Sky View was in the same situation this week, beginning it ranked No. 1 and then losing to Woods Cross on Tuesday.
The importance of Friday's game was obvious.
Bountiful enjoyed a 3-to-5 point lead throughout most of the game, even though Sky View led briefly early in the fourth quarter. After that, Maxwell said defense kicked in for the Braves.
"Our kids didn't give them any shots they wanted. The kids listened to the game plan and they watched the scouting reports. We knew where their shots were coming from in the end," said Maxwell. "Those kids listened, they were coachable."
With Sky View leading 40-38 on a tip-in by Jordan Stone with over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Bountiful limited the Bobcats to one point during the next five minutes. The Braves opened up a 49-41 lead during that stretch to seize momentum.
In a game featuring a couple of future college big men in Bountiful's Ben Aird (UVSC) and Sky View's Stone (Utah State), it was Jordan Maxwell who stole the show finishing with a game-high 21 points.
In addition to several key 3-pointers earlier in the game, Maxwell's biggest basket occurred with 5:57 remaining in the fourth quarter. Thanks to consecutive 3-pointers by Jordan Benson and then Stone's tip in, Sky View was threatening to seize momentum opening the fourth on an 8-2 scoring run to take a 40-38 lead its first lead of the game.
Maxwell responded with a mid-range jumper at the other end to tie it at 40-40.
In a game played amid "Hoosiers-like" atmosphere in Sky View's old gym because of a significantly warped floor in the main gym, Stone and Aird still still played key roles finishing with 16 and 14 points respectively. They also managed to swat a few of each others' shots as well, including Aird's block on Stone with 30 seconds remaining and Bountiful only lead 50-46.
Aird definitely felt a sense of relief after missing four straight free throws in the final 90 seconds to give Sky View a glimmer of hope.Defense was realistically the catalyst for Bountiful all game, particularly in the second quarter. Leading by eight, Bountiful somehow managed to still be leading by three at the half despite being held scoreless in the final 7:09 of the quarter.