RICHFIELD — It was a tale of two halves Thursday afternoon at the Sevier Valley Center. At the end of two quarters, the No. 2 Beaver Beavers and the No. 4 Altamont Longhorns were locked in a close game, with just three points separating the squads.
Despite the fact they were trailing, the Longhorns looked primed to spring yet another upset, thanks to their workmanlike performance on the boards and some accurate long-range shooting.
“I think Coach (Eric) Watson does a good job,” Beaver head coach Joe Hillock said. “We beat ‘em earlier in the Smithfield Classic, at our gym, over Christmas and he had them ready for this one.”
No Altamont player looked more prepared than Zachary Hansen. The senior scored seven points in the first quarter alone, including a 3-pointer. Teammate Clayl Christensen wasn’t too shabby either, with eight points and two threes.
The Beavers, on the other hand, looked a little overwhelmed, undone by the moment. That is except for Porter Hollingshead. The senior scored six of his team-best 12 points in the first half, keeping the Beavers in it.
“I think we might have had a few nerves,” said Hillock. “We got beat out by Summit Academy in the first round (last year) and these guys as sophomores didn’t get in the game.”
Those nerves were nonexistent in the second half, however, as the Beavers outscored the Longhorns by 21 points en route to a 58-34 victory.
“That is kind of the way we have been playing,” said Hillock. “We just had to get back to our core principles.”
For the Beavers, who had the second-best defense in 2A this season, allowing just 46 points per game, that meant locking down on that side of the ball.
“We are one of the best defensive teams in 2A basketball, and that was one thing we talked about (at the half), getting back to our principles,” said Hillock. “Our core principles of keeping people in front of us and contesting shots with a high hand. We did a much better job with that.”
The Beavers held the Longhorns to just 15 second-half points, a number that was equal to Altamont's first quarter offensive output alone.
The improved defense meanwhile had the added benefit of sparking the Beavers offense.
The Beavers scored 15 and 19 points, respectively, in the last two periods, led by Davis Heslington.
Beaver’s leading scorer all season, with an average of almost 20 points per game, Heslington was held to just two points in the first half. He put in nine second-half points, keying the Beavers charge.
“No one is going to go away at this point (in the tournament),” said Hillock. “The games are too important when there are only eight of you left. We did a much better job boxing out. We contested shots with high hands, kept them out of the paint and rebounded. We did a pretty good job with that.”
Making the Beavers efforts, especially on defense, all the more impressive was the fact that they were and have been missing, since January 10, a key rotation player in Dalton Hoyt.
“We lost Dalton right before the Millard game so that is one less rotation guy we’ve got,” said Hillock. “Other guys have stepped up (for us). Preston Roberts was coming off the bench but now he is starting and doing a good job. Ky Brown moved from (junior varsity) to varsity and he did a nice job, he really responded.”
The Beavers will need the combined efforts of their entire team Friday night, as they are set to battle the defending champion Layton Christian Academy Eagles at 7:30 p.m. in the semifinals.