OGDEN Bountiful is one game away from closing in on its first state title in 4A boys basketball since 1997. But you wouldn't know it from the business-like approach the Braves have taken up to this point.
Repeated high-fives, screaming and excessive hugging were nowhere to be found among the Braves following their 55-49 semifinal victory over Tmpview on Friday. For Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell, that's one of the best signs yet that his team has evolved into a championship-caliber group.
"They are preparing themselves right now which I like to see," Maxwell said. "If they had been jumping up and down celebrating, I would have been worried."
Celebrations will definitely be in order, however, with one more win today. And if the Braves do hoist the trophy they covet tonight, Ben Aird will be a major reason why.
Aird is playing some of the best basketball of his high school career at the Dee Events Center. In three games, the senior center has averaged 25 points, 12.7 rebounds and two blocks.
After facing and dominating promising sophomore Bronson Kafusi in the semifinals, Aird will get to see what he can do against another quality big man in Provo forward Brandon Davies.
Davies had his best game of the tournament in Friday's 56-44 semifinal win over Mountain Crest. The junior torched the Mustangs for 26 points and nine rebounds.
Bulldogs coach Craig Drury is intrigued to see what Davies can do against the tandem of Aird and Sean Carey.
"He's just a good athlete and a good player," Drury said. "It's going to be a great matchup between (him) and the Bountiful big guys."
Stopping Davies is not Bountiful's only concern. The Braves also face a Provo offense which requires extreme patience on the part of defenders. The Bulldogs aren't afraid to make an extra pass or two or three if it creates a better shot.
"They are patient with the ball," Aird said. "That's hard because it wears you down on defense. Because they are so patient, you have to try to jump on them quick."
Mountain Crest followed that recipe, but ran out of gas in the third quarter. After scoring only a pair of free throws in that eight minute span, the Mustangs could not catch up again in the fourth.
Davies said Provo will need that kind of defensive effort once again when it plays Bountiful.
"That's how we should play throughout the whole game," Davies said. "As soon as we do that, we'll be state champs if we play like that the whole game."
Provo has a secret defensive weapon in Scott Edwards. Drury considers him to be one of his best perimeter defenders he has ever coached during his tenure with the Bulldogs. Edwards' stats may not always stand out, but Drury said the senior does so many things you can't measure with a boxscore."He is a great defensive player," Drury said. "And the thing that makes him not show up is there's no stat for stopped dribbler. (No) stat for not letting a guy shoot a clean jump shot. (No) stat for closing out on a three-point shooter. You don't have those stats."