RIVERTON — When his team lost three straight games earlier this month to Woods Cross, Alta and Highland, Olympus boys basketball coach Matt Barnes knew he needed to make a subtle change to his team.
After giving the initial starting nod in Oly's lineup to several underclassmen who he believes earned it in tryouts, Barnes decided his team needed more senior leadership on the floor. Inserting Jake Bengtzen and Nick Barney into the starting lineup has proven to be a great move.
The guards combined to score 16 points and play great defense in leading Olympus to a 55-43 victory over Fremont in the opening game of the Riverton Winter Invitational on Tuesday night.
"We started a couple younger guards to start with, but we put seniors back into the starting lineup into the last two games and it's made a big difference with energy and maturity," said Barnes. "We needed a spark and we needed a change."
Their presence is making a big difference right from the opening tip.
Four nights after jumping all over Bingham and building a first-quarter lead it never relinquished, the Titans did it again to Fremont. Behind an aggressive defense that forced five first-quarter turnovers, the Titans used an 11-0 run over a four-minute stretch early in the game to build a 19-7 lead.
"The Bingham game, I think, we played real good defense; we got off to a fast start in the Bingham game and continued to this game. I think this was our best game of the season by far. I think we played the full 36 minutes," said Olympus big man Will Cannon, who led the Titans with 13 points.
After building the early double-digit lead, Olympus never let it dip below eight points until midway through the fourth quarter, when Fremont cut the lead to 42-38 on a 3-pointer by Hayden Spencer.
The Silver Wolves' momentum was short-lived, though. Olympus responded with a quick 7-0 run by forcing the 'Wolves into three straight turnovers.
"We're starting to figure things out. We're kind of finding out where we're at and what it takes to win at this level. It takes some toughness and definitely a lot of energy and heart," said Barnes.
Olympus shot 45 percent from the field in the victory, as Barney and Parker Rawlings scored 10 points each to go along with Cannon's 13.
Fremont's Brock Smith led all scorers with 24 points, including three 3-pointers, but he had to work hard for those points.
"We just tried to make it hard on him. We weren't going to totally double team him," said Barnes. "We rebounded the ball well and didn't give him many second-chance points."
In fact, the Titans only gave up six offensive rebounds the entire game and just five second-chance points.