You can tell we play with a lot of emotion, and that’s how I am. —Kearns head coach Dan Cosby

MURRAY — The Kearns High Cougars played in Wednesday night’s matchup against the Murray Spartans like it was the state championship, with players pouring out emotion on to the court as the Cougars emerged victorious, 50-35.

“You can tell we play with a lot of emotion, and that’s how I am," Kearns head coach Dan Cosby said. "There’s no malice intended with it, it’s just we play hard, we express ourselves, and it has nothing to do with what the refs call, it has nothing to do with the (opposing) players, it’s just us,”

Journey Buba led all scorers with 21 points, and teammate Majok Kuath added 14 points in the Cougars’ win. In the loss, Ajak Arok scored 14 points to lead Murray and provided the highlight of the night for the Spartans on a ferocious putback dunk in the third quarter.

“Journey always plays hard, I have no problems with Journey, we just got to get him to be that leader out there. If he’s playing like that, he’s going to be dangerous. What will open up with him is if he gets everybody else involved and then relies on his quickness at the end because he can play the whole game without coming out,” Cosby said.

Kearns showed its depth Wednesday night as several players sat out against the Spartans.

“We really haven’t had everybody at practice. We’ve had guys out with strep, one of my players just got liquid drained out of his knee today, he hasn’t practiced with us. ... We just haven’t had a full team. We’re trying to learn each other in practice, we’re playing against JV guys in practice, there’s just no rhythm. We’re lost out there,” Cosby said. “We’ll get better, we have some new guys and they show glimpses, and that’s the positive thing.”

Those glimpses were on display throughout the contest, with Kearns using its athleticism to get second-chance points and rebounds, along with some electrifying dunks.

“There’s a lot of athleticism. I think they played hard today, we've just got to work on toning it down and playing with composure, good pace. We have none of that right now, which is kind of good, but then again we’re not going to win many basketball games if we don’t take care of it,” Cosby said.

After a back-and-forth first half, which ended in a 25-21 halftime score in favor of Kearns, the Cougars opened the second half on a tear, forcing several Spartan turnovers throughout the opening minutes of the third quarter and outscoring Murray 8-3. Just when it seemed Kearns was primed to pull away, Arok brought the home crowd to its feet with a putback jam that rattled the rim, closing the deficit to six points, where it would stay heading into the last quarter.

A fast-break dunk from Kuath fired up the Cougars’ bench to start the fourth quarter, and Murray turned the ball over twice in the opening minutes, but the Spartans hung strong.

An Arok layup closed the gap to five with five minutes remaining. Two layups by Buba pushed the Kearns lead back to nine. A play later, though, Buba fed Kuath for an attempted layup, which ended with a foul and pair of made free throws. A half-minute later, Buba stole the ball again, but missed the layup, but his miss was followed by an Emmanuel Andrew dunk. Then on another missed shot, Andrew had another putback jam to give Kearns a commanding 48-34 lead with less than a minute left.