DRAPER — High-flying Ridgeline scored a whopping 29 points in the fourth quarter on Friday night against Juan Diego — but it was realistically just stat padding.
In the three quarters before that, Juan Diego methodically buried the Riverhawks, building a 22-point lead late in the third quarter as it rolled to an easy 62-54 region victory.
For coach Drew Trost, it was a satisfying victory because of the maturity his players demonstrated after a rough game earlier in the week.
Two nights early against Bear River, the Soaring Eagle only scored 18 points in the first half as it was forced to narrowly rally for a three-point victory. Against a quality Ridgeline team, it avoided another atrocious first half, but just as important avoided a letdown in the second half.
“We talked a lot about we’ve got to start strong, and we worked on a lot of things on the day off,” said Trost.
Juan Diego led 15-8 after the first quarter and then 31-12 at the half as Ridgeline only shot 25 percent from the field in the opening half.
Trost attributes a lot of those struggles to Juan Diego’s length all over the floor and then a feisty zone defense.
“The 2-2-1 (zone) doesn’t seem like it’s that threatening, but it’s like a gnat, it just keeps nagging you,” said Trost.
While the defense was causing troubles, Juan Diego’s offense was having its way at the other end of the court.
Juan Diego shot over 50 percent from the field in all four quarters, finishing at 56 percent. As usually happens, everyone got involved.
“We’re all talented, we can all score, but coach wants us to share the ball a lot more, get more assists, get everyone involved and score as a team,” said Tan.
That offensive distribution makes Juan Diego even more difficult to defend than in recent years, and Trost credits the seniors for buying into the team concept this season.
“A lot of seniors would come back and say this is my year, I want to try and score as many as we can, but they’ve bought into the we’re better as a whole if we’re really moving the ball,” said Trost.
That balance was obvious in the second quarter when Juan Diego realistically pulled away for good. Of its six buckets in the quarter, four were lay-ups at the rim and the other two were kick-out 3-pointers made by Kitzman and Ahlstrom.
“We’ve had several games where we’ve had 20 assists. We’re hard to scout and hard to stop because we have the height, we have the shooting, we have guys that can handle the ball and they’ve bought into the team,” said Trost.