MAGNA — Kearns coach Dan Cosby’s message to his team prior to Wednesday’s Region 2 opener at Cyprus was a simple one: “I don’t want to see anybody smile.”
He wanted his players to view the game as a business trip, a mindset the team needed after some disciplinary issues during the Riverton Holiday Tournament over the break. And, he didn’t want anybody to forget how a surprising late-season loss to Cyprus last February contributed to Kearns ultimately missing the playoffs.
That business-like mentality paid big dividends as Kearns throttled Cyprus 95-64, a win that had everyone smiling afterward.
“We wanted to get a good start with region. They are a dangerous team,” said Cosby. “We had a really hard practice yesterday, probably harder than most. Normally the day before the game we take off a bit.”
That extra focus helped Kearns put the game out of reach early, racing to a 21-0 lead as it scored on nine of its first 12 possessions. Journey Buba buried three 3-pointers during the opening stretch as he finished with a game-high 32 points.
“Our goal was to start at a fast pace and to play with intensity right from the start,” said Cosby.
Cyprus, meanwhile, missed its first 11 shots and went scoreless until the 2:21 mark of the first quarter. It was a discouraging start for the Pirates, who had some encouraging wins at the Riverton tourney during the break giving them hope to a strong start to region.
Kearns crushed that hope early with intense perimeter defense. Cyprus came into the game averaging nearly nine 3-pointers per game, and Cosby stressed to his players to contest every shot.
“Initially we wanted to protect the 3, I didn’t care if they drove in. I’ll play the two-man game all day. I think we’re better if we go back and forth that way,” said Cosby.
Cyprus ultimately finished with seven 3-pointers, but six came in the second half when the game was already well out of hand.
Kearns pushed the lead to 29-9 by the end of the first quarter and never trailed by less than 20 the rest of the way.
Majok Kuath added 24 points for the Cougars, while Mattew Wickizer added 15.
Cosby was pleased with the strong start to region play and hopes his team backs it up with additional consistency throughout region play.
“They’ve got to buy into what we’re doing. This is the year for us to win region. We have all the pieces, we have bigs, we have shooters, we’ve got good guards. We have to just do things right, and do things the Kearns way,” said Cosby.
Skyler Case scored 18 points in the loss for Cyprus, most coming on acrobatic finishes at the rim.