It’s a heated rivalry ... so when they keep going at you, you just have to prove them wrong. —Lone Peak guard Steven Ashworth
HIGHLAND — Lone Peak guard Steven Ashworth isn't going to blow anyone away with his athleticism, but he will frustrate an opposing team considerably with his style of play and his superior basketball acumen. Just ask American Fork, which was dealt a 71-58 loss to the Knights on Tuesday, with Ashworth dicing up the Cavemen for a game-high 26 points.
Ashworth's play frustrated not only the American Fork players but also the Cavemen students who filled the student section to the brim in what has become one of the state's best basketball rivalries. Those same students started chanting, "Flopper!" whenever Ashworth touched the ball in the second half, hoping to disrupt his flow, or at least send a message of discontent.
But for a player like Ashworth, he welcomed all of it.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Ashworth said with a grin. “It’s a heated rivalry so when they keep going at you, you just have to prove them wrong.”
Prove the Cavemen wrong he did, not only by scoring 26 points but also by running the Knights' offense effectively from the point while dishing out a lot of defensive pressure on the other end.
“Our fans love it and the opposing fans hate it,” Ashworth said of his style of play. “They’re going to try and make up any excuse they want to make themselves feel better, but we don’t let it get to us.”
Lone Peak's starting point guard was at his best in the second half, leading his team to a quick 14-3 run at the start of the third quarter, while knocking down two 3-pointers in that stretch. He didn't let up until he was pulled midway through the fourth quarter with the Knights holding a commanding lead.
“This is his third year playing varsity and he’s played a lot of good minutes against some really good teams. He just rises to the occasion,” Evans said of Ashworth's play.
But it wasn't just about Ashworth on Tuesday. Some good second-half play from fellow starting guard and Lone Peak leading scorer Chantry Ross contributed, as did some dogged interior defense from Max Brenchley and Jackson Brinkerhoff against a much bigger Caveman front.
Johnson, American Fork's talented 6-11 junior, managed to finish with 21 points, but the majority of those came long after Lone Peak had built its big second-half lead.
American Fork did start off well and earned a 13-9 lead after one quarter before Evans decided to switch things up in the form of a full-court press defense. It worked like a charm, as Lone Peak's superior guard play and quickness started to overwhelm the Cavemen. Lone Peak took back the lead midway through the second quarter and ended the half up 32-21.
“I think we’re better when we’re a little bit quicker,” Evans said of the reasons to go with a full-court press defense. “Also, it can create a lot of problems for other people. I was a little bit nervous to do it because their guys are really talented, but it seemed to work.”
With the win, Lone Peak improved to 13-3 overall but most important, 2-0 in Region 4 play. The Knights will next travel to take on Pleasant Grove. American Fork fell to 9-7 overall and 0-1 in Region 4 play.