Thanks to having a little bit of a height advantage, and some savvy 3-point shooting in the first half, the Braves dominated their way to a 67-53 victory.
“Westlake was a formidable team,” said Braves coach Mike Maxwell. “They have some big guys and some athletic guys that we had to play pretty hard against, which changed our focus because we have a bunch of young guys.”
The 3-pointer was a key element in Bountiful’s game early on as Zach Seljaas and Jordan Bleak made a combined three of the Braves’ five first half 3-pointers, helping them build a 40-20 lead by halftime.
Nate Pollard, who went scoreless but had three rebounds, two assists and two blocks, proved to be a key player in the middle of the floor on defense, holding his opponent at center to two points.
“We know what he is, and he knows what he is,” said Maxwell. “We try not to get him to do too much, but he does everything we ask of him by setting screens and getting his hands up on defense. He played very well tonight.”
After the first quarter ended with Bountiful holding a slim two-point lead, Bountiful started making everything on the floor offensively and held the Thunder scoreless for nearly seven-and-a-half minutes.
During the scoring run, which ended at 21-0 before the first basket was scored by Westlake, Merrill scored nine points, and Mosese Manu finished the run with two quick baskets. Westlake’s five points all came with under 30 seconds remaining in the first half.
“Sam is a terrific player,” said Maxwell. “He does a lot of things on the floor whether it’s getting a key score, grabbing the tough rebound, or anything. He always finds something that gets the team going on the floor.”
Westlake gave the game a small chance when the team outscored the Braves 18-12 in the third quarter, however, Seljaas and Merrill sparked the Bountiful offense to start the fourth quarter by scoring the team’s first six points in quick fashion.
The Braves finished the game from the free-throw line, making five of seven attempts in the closing minutes of the game.
Bountiful’s next opponent will be Roy, which beat Springville 59-46 earlier the same day, on Thursday. Maxwell said the team will be tough, but the Braves will be prepared.
“They’re a tough team with some good shooters,” he said of Roy. “We have to be aware of that and be aware of how they play their zone (defense) and see if we’re up to the task.”
Merrill scored 22 points and had three assists, five rebounds and five steals for Bountiful. Seljaas scored 15 points and Manu scored nine points with three rebounds in the win.