HEBER CITY — The Wasatch boys basketball team is 2-0 early on in the 2019 campaign. While that looks good in the Region 8 standings, the way in which the Wasps won those two contests may not be for the faint of heart.
Wasatch, fresh off an overtime victory at Maple Mountain, where they trailed all the way into the last quarter before breaking it open in the extra period for a 61-49 win, was looking to get off to a much better start in its next game.
However, on Tuesday night in the Wasatch gym, dubbed The Nest, the home team came out flat only to prevail in dramatic fashion, coming on strong in the closing minutes and stealing a one-point contest against visiting Provo High School, 54-53.
It was a fairly standard final score in a good high school basketball game, but considering Wasatch trailed by as many as 12 points at the end of the first period, and played from behind all the way until 3:50 left in the game, it was a pretty positive statement by the young Wasps and first-year head coach James Ballstaedt.
“Well, we certainly don’t want to make a habit of this, but I’m proud of the character of this team tonight,” Ballstaedt said. “Nobody gave up. Nobody panicked. We just needed to adjust really early to get back into this one. We had to find out who wanted to play. What we’re made of. And this early on, and we knew it was going to be a lot of growing pains along the way, we found out some things about ourselves.”
Ballstaedt had to call a full timeout just minutes into the game when his Wasps fell 8-0 and were getting sliced up by the slashing Bulldog offense. That timeout, followed by a couple of early substitutions, got Wasatch back into the game, but it still was having difficulty finding any rhythm.
Trailing 19-7 after the opening period, the Wasps put together one of their best scoring quarters of basketball this season, dropping 18 on the visitors. The problem to this point was turnovers that allowed Provo to keep its advantage.
The Wasps went into the locker room at the half trailing by 11 points and searching for answers.
“I told the guys that we could still win this game, and we're going to win this game if we played fundamental basketball,” Ballstaedt said. “We didn’t want any feeling sorry for ourselves or anything like that, we just wanted to get back into it, and that had to be one possession at a time.”
It helped that Wasatch guard Lance Gehring found a hot hand for the second consecutive game and poured in a game-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Right behind him was the only senior on the Wasatch roster, post player Ethan Wood, who chipped in 14 points. Ironically, those two factored into the play that put Wasatch on top with seconds remaining to win.
The home team took advantage of the Bulldogs' cold shooting in the third period, outscoring them 15-9. Defensively, the Wasps were tightening the screws and the pressure was allowing them to take advantage on the boards and play for the open shot.
Trailing now by only four points at 6:20 in the final period, Wood was fouled going to the basket for the and-one opportunity. The senior sank the free throw and the Wasps were down only one.
Following a missed shot by Provo, Gehring took his own rebound and drove to the lane, dishing off to Wood for the lay-in. It was the Wasps' first lead on the night and the Wasatch faithful were whipped into a frenzy.
Provo then quieted the crowd, scoring three quick field goals to the Wasps’ one, giving them a 53-52 lead with only 24 seconds remaining in the game.
On the following possession with a chance to tie, a lane violation with Wasatch guard Quincy White, who had nailed two-for-two foul shots a minute earlier, at the free-throw line, nullified the game-tying make.
The Wasps, who had fought back so diligently from the huge early game deficit, were now down one point with 14 seconds left and possession going to the Bulldogs.1 comment on this story
With the Wasps in full press on defense and time ticking away, a missed Provo shot attempt was rebounded by Gehring. The guard broke away from the lane, staying on the baseline, and spotted a wide-open Wood at the other end of the court waving his arms in the paint.
A perfect pass to Wood, followed by the easy lay-in, with five seconds on the clock iced the 54-53 win for the young Wasps.
“I’m really proud of these guys and the way they didn’t give up,” Ballstaedt said. “On a night when Will (Wasatch leading scorer Will Harris) wasn’t at his best, the other guys stepped up and filled that void. That’s a good feeling because Will will be back on his game and we know we have options out there.”