TAYLORSVILLE — In the first round of a state basketball tournament, it isn’t entirely unusual for higher-ranked teams to stumble out of the gates. Dealing with high expectations blended with overlooking, in certain cases, inferior opponents often leads to uncomfortable first quarters.
American Fork, leaning on its extended defensive pressure, delivered quite an opposite burst in the opening round of the 5A tournament. The Cavemen, in their 53-37 win, opened on a 12-1 run and frustrated Cottonwood into missing its first seven shots with five turnovers Monday at Salt Lake Community College.
“At first we were playing really good, butt-down defense with deny,” American Fork coach Corey Clayton said. “Once we got lazy and started fouling and our help wasn’t where it was supposed to be then they got some confidence at the end of that second quarter. But for a quarter and a half we played really good defense.”
AF (18-5) took a 12-1 lead with 2:24 left in the first quarter when Dixie State commit Cassidy Fraughton anticipated a lingering pass on the perimeter, which translated into to an uncontested layup on the opposite end.
AF's formidable defense, with Fraughton as the main instigator, continued to cause headaches for Cottonwood (13-8). The Colts coughed up the orange 21 times, which translated to 30 American Fork points.
Fraughton poured in a game-high 22 points while maneuvering through various defensive looks designed to flatten her rhythm.
“She just does everything for us — she’s our leading scorer, rebounder and assist person. I mean she does everything. She’s a stat filler,” Clayton said of Fraughton. “They tried to box-and-1 us, which we were prepared for. We’ve got some other kids that you can’t just not guard. It was nice to see our kids step up and hit some shots early to make them come out of that. That let Cassidy not have someone in her jersey all night.”
Cottonwood battled back in the second quarter with a full-court-extended defense and cut American Fork's cushion to as little as six points behind Kari Uncles, who tallied a team-high 12 points.
“That first game — that’s what happens,” Clayton said in reference to the Colts' stretch in the second quarter. “Everybody is a little hyped up and doing things that you’re not typically used to doing.”
Albeit statistically the impact wasn’t necessarily found, but the return of Ashley Baugh certainly changed the complexity of the Cavemen's scheme. It was Baugh's first game in two months after sustaining a serious ankle injury. The Utah Valley commit finished with seven points, adding three free throws in the closing moments.
“She’s not 100 percent, but just her tenacity, toughness and little bit of attitude that she gives us is nice to have,” Clayton said of Baugh. “I think as she plays more her confidence will start coming and she’ll start being more of who she really is. Her brain knows what she wants to do, but her body isn’t quite able to do that yet.”
AF, the No. 2 seed from Region 4, will play Fremont in the quarterfinals Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The Silver Wolves pulled off an early upset of Region 2’s top seed, Viewmont, in the first round.