OGDEN They looked a little shaky down the stretch, but the Murray Spartans still had enough poise Tuesday to win their first state tournament game in 11 years.
But despite making things interesting in the final minutes with stints of sloppy play, Murray was mainly able to get past the Springville Red Devils 54-48 quarterfinal win by taking care of the basketball.
The Spartans finished the game with only five turnovers and 14 assists. The Red Devils, in their first tournament appearance in nine years, turned the ball over 17 times. Those numbers resulted in Murray taking 19 more shots than Springville, which allowed the Spartans to advance to round two of the 4A boys basketball tournament despite making only 38 percent of those shots.
"Poise and strength are the keys," Murray coach Jason Workman said. "I'm not sure we finished very strong, but I thought we showed a lot of poise today."
Because Murray's good numbers significantly outweighed the bad ones, Workman wasn't too concerned about the two final-minute turnovers that gave Springville life right down to the final seconds.
"Those who have watched us play know that that's not anything new for us," Workman said.
Another key for Murray, Workman said, was the Spartans' second-half defensive adjustments on Springville's perimeter game. Specifically, Murray made sure that Red Devil guards Alex Mortensen and Michael Salazar had to work extra hard for their points.
"They're great players and both hit some big shots for them, but I thought we really made them work," Workman said. "Springville's just a better team on offense when their guards are scoring, and I thought we took that away from them in the second half."
Murray, behind the strong inside play of Rhett Gardiner and the playmaking of Markus Duran, jumped out to a 13-3 lead. But a long 3-pointer from Salazar cut the lead to 15-8 after one.
The Spartans opened the second period with a 3-pointer from Chaz Bollwinkel, a putback hoop by Gardiner and a baseline jumper from Duran to quickly take a 22-10 lead. The rest of the way, however, the game was close.
Two quick bombs by Salazar and four straight free throws by Springville trimmed Murray's lead to 24-20. Murray maintained a four- to six-point lead for the next few minutes until Mortensen swished in a trey from the right corner midway through the third to cut Murray's lead to 36-35. But the Red Devils were never able to get over the hump and the Spartans never did give up the lead and quickly extended it back to seven.
With just over a minute to play, however, the Red Devils made one last charge. A basket by Daniel Day and a driving layup by Mortensen with 45 seconds left cut Murray's lead to 49-46. But the Spartans survived with two free throws by Duran at the 30-second mark and a break-away layup by Zach Lloyd a few seconds later.
"I thought they came out a little tight and we were a little looser and got up early, but then it was just two even teams battling the rest of the way," Workman said.Duran led all scorers with 16 points. Gardiner and Tanner Carr each added 10 for Murray. The Red Devils got 15 from Salazar and 11 from forward Dan Foster.
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