OGDEN — Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell used the word "lucky" at least half a dozen times in talking about his team's 58-52 victory over No. 1 Timpview in the opening round of the 4A state tournament on Tuesday.
He said they were lucky to shoot 54 percent, lucky to get Timpview's big guys in foul trouble, and lucky to draw Timpview in the first round with a week to prepare instead of 24 hours to prepare later in the tournament.
Whatever the explanation, the defending champs are gone.
"We were fortunate. We really were. The kids played great together, they played as a team," said Maxwell.
Realistically, the Braves finally played like the team that came into the season with five returning starters and high expectations. They didn't look anything like the team that fizzled down the stretch in Region 6 and went into the playoffs as a No. 3 seed.
Ironically enough, Timpview won last year's state championship as a No. 3 seed from Region 7, and Bountiful's quest to duplicate the improbable run is off to a great start.
Dillon Salazar deserves a ton of credit. He made 5 of 7 field goals, including 4 of 4 from behind the arc, to lead the Braves with 17 points while also chipping in with five rebounds and four assists.
"He just makes the plays that we have to have to win. He doesn't care if he scores two points or 15 or 20. He just does what it takes to win, he's a winner," said Maxwell. "That's what he did on the football field for our football team and that's why they advanced so far. And he's doing it for us."
Bountiful certainly got a boost as Timpview big men Corbin Kaufusi and Colby Jorgensen each got into foul trouble. With the two rarely on the floor together, Maxwell said his team was able to settle into its offense more effectively.
Leading 15-12 after the first quarter, the Braves opened the second on an 11-0 run to extend the lead to 26-12.
Timpview methodically whittled the lead back to seven by halftime, and Christian Covey drained a 3-pointer two minutes into the third quarter to tie the game at 29-29.
Despite his team squandering such a large lead, Maxwell wasn't worried.
"I've had this same starting five since last year. They've been through … it all. They've been through the ups and the downs and the emotions of teams making runs on you. If you have a lesser experienced team, I would've been concerned," said Maxwell.
The Braves quickly regained the lead and then used a 7-0 run over a four-minute stretch during the fourth quarter to extend it to 51-42. They could've buried the T-Birds during the stretch, but Bountiful only made 2 of 7 free throws — finishing an awful 11 of 24 for the game.
Covey and Ryan Sagers hit back-to-back 3s to cut the lead to 51-48 with 1:02 remaining, but the Braves stopped missing free throws in the final minute to pull away.
"We just kept playing as a team, playing defense and rebounding and that was our weak point earlier in the season and we stepped up tonight," said Salazar, who wasn't the only Brave to come up big.
Covey led Timpview with 20 points while Sagers added 15, but the T-Birds couldn't overcome shooting 35 percent and being outrebounded 34-26.