PROVO The Provo Bulldogs had little trouble the first time through the Region 7 boys basketball slate, winning two games by 30 points and the other three by no fewer than eight points.
The second time around, however, things are likely going to be a little tougher as every team is sure to bring its best game when facing the Bulldogs in the rematches.
Tuesday's 42-38 win over the Payson Lions might have been a taste of things to come for Provo. In the first meeting the Bulldogs dominated from start to finish in a 30-point blowout. On Tuesday, Provo never led by more than eight and almost let the game slip away down the stretch.
"Hopefully this will wake us up and we'll come out and play a little better against Mountain View on Friday," Provo coach Craig Drury said.
In the earlier blow-out loss the Lions went at Provo with a zone defense. On Tuesday they defended the Bulldogs with a man defense, were much more patient on offense and didn't allow Provo to get into a transition game.
"I've always felt Payson was a good team," Drury said. "They weren't getting things together at the first of the year and now they are getting things together."
Provo won despite missing 11 free throws. In one stretch the Bulldogs missed five straight from the line. In the final minutes the Bulldogs also took some bad shots, committed a couple of senseless fouls and turned the ball over twice, which allowed Payson to stay within striking distance right down to the final seconds.
"They played well and we played just well enough to win," Drury said.
The Lions kept the game a back-and-forth affair in the first half by pounding the ball inside to center Seth Lovell, who scored 12 first-half points in leading Payson to a 17-16 halftime lead. In the second half, however, the Bulldogs clamped down on the entry passes to Lovell and allowed him only two baskets over the final two quarters.
"I think we identified where it looked like they wanted to go with the ball. I thought we tried to do the same things in the first half, we just didn't do them as well," Drury said.
As a result, the Lions didn't make a second-half basket until halfway through the third. When Kyle Collinsworth hit a driving scoop shot and Adam Law followed up with a fast-break layup, the Bulldogs led 25-21. However, when Provo shut down Payson's inside game the Lions' guards responded. A three-pointer by Jacob Tipton and one late in the period by Jake Hiatt had Provo leading only 29-28 after three.
Scoring in the fourth was again sparse, until two free throws by Collinsworth, a put-back basket by Kyson Koop and a three-pointer from the corner by Law put Provo ahead 38-30 with under three minutes to play. But the Lions made things interesting late when Lovell hit a reverse lay-up, after which Hiatt stole the inbounds pass and scored to make it 38-34 with 36 seconds remaining. Another basket by Hiatt cut Provo's lead to 38-36 with 18 seconds left. After both teams each made two more free throws, the Bulldogs sealed it when Law sank two clutch foul shots with only eight ticks on the clock to push the margin back to four.
Provo captain Scott Edwards, who injured his shoulder in a game last week, only played briefly Tuesday.
"We missed his leadership on the floor tonight and it was obvious," Drury said.Lovell led all scorers with 17. Collinsworth was Provo's top man with 14.