Even though Waterford beat Gunnison in a preseason game earlier this season, Ravens' coach Reid Monson stressed with his players leading up to their playoff rematch Saturday afternoon that the second meeting would be much more difficult.
His players responded to the challenge in a big way.
In a physical game throughout, Waterford matched Gunnison's intensity for a 59-54 victory in the first round of the 2A state tournament at Snow College.
"I'm happy for them. It's a hard-fought win against a great team," said Monson. "Everybody wants to extend that season and keep playing, and I'm excited to have a chance to get down to Richfield with this group."
Trailing 16-13 after the first quarter, Waterford outscored Gunnison 18-9 in the second quarter to open up a 31-25 lead. It extended the lead 38-25 after opening the third quarter on a 7-0 run.
The Ravens successfully maintained that 6-to-10 points advantage for most of the second half until Gunnison knocked down several 3-pointers late in the game to whittle the deficit to three points with under two minutes remaining.
Alec Monson stopped the rally with a big 3-pointer of his own to extend the lead back to six points, and Waterford iced the victory from there from the foul line.
"I knew we were going to get a tough game from those guys, they're physical. They're very tough," said coach Monson.
With the victory, Waterford advances to next week's quarterfinals at the Sevier Valley Center. It will face No. 1 South Sevier, which extended its winning streak to 21 straight with a victory on Saturday. One of those victories was a 15-point victory over Waterford back in January, but Monson is excited for another shot at the tournament favorites.
"I like my team, and I like the fact that we have presence inside and shooters outside and experience at positions that matter in a game like that," said Monson.
Gunnison's Ty Bartholomew scored 16 points and knocked down five 3-pointers in the loss.