AMERICAN FORK — The transition for American Fork basketball is going just fine.
The Cavemen continued their undefeated start to the season under first-year coach Ryan Cuff with a dominant 78-66 win over Fremont in the semifinals of the Utah Elite 8 on Friday night.
American Fork built a 12-point lead after the first quarter and stretched it to as many as 25 in the fourth quarter to improve to 4-0.
“This year we have a motto that we use as a team called 'Expect to Win.' I think in years past we came out wanting to beat teams but not really knowing if we can,” said American Fork center Isaac Johnson.
Friday’s outcome was never in doubt as Johnson led the way with 21 points and 15 rebounds, which included a couple of thunderous dunks from the 6-foot-10 Oregon commit.
In beating Fremont a night after beating Bountiful, American Fork advances to the championship game of the Utah Elite 8 tournament at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
“From last night’s game and carrying over to today, we were excited to get back to the floor today,” said Cuff. “Overall it was just the confidence of them running the floor and getting some easy buckets.”
American Fork enjoyed a 26-8 edge in the paint thanks in large part to Johnson’s presence on the inside on both ends of the floor. It’s something teams can expect more and more of this season.
“We’re demanding him to get in the paint, demanding him to get touches so he can score easy points versus maybe the tougher shots. He can still shoot it, we’re still confident and want him to shoot it but we’re setting things up where we’re getting him down on the block and he can make moves that way,” said Cuff.
American Fork’s high energy from the opening tip helped it effectively put the game out of reach early as an 11-0 run late in the first quarter pushed the lead to 23-8.Comment on this story
Fremont briefly chipped away at the lead as Dallin Hall buried 3-pointers on three straight trips down the floor to cut the lead to 32-24 with 2:45 left in the half.
American Fork responded with a 9-2 run to close the half, which Cuff said was the result of continuing to push the tempo whenever possible.
“We just kept pushing, kept going to get easier buckets,” said Cuff.
Hall led Fremont in the loss with 35 points as he made 8 of 17 3-pointers. As a team, Fremont made 14 3-points on a whopping 41 attempts.