SALT LAKE CITY – The Bountiful boys’ basketball team is ranked No. 1 in the state for a reason.
Against Provo High School Monday night in the 4A playoffs, the Braves didn’t let a slow start deter them from beating the Bulldogs 76-44 and moving onto Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
“These kids have been here before, and they just want to win so bad,” said Braves coach Mike Maxwell. “When you have to play at 7:30 at night and you’re sitting around waiting to get through school, it’s hard. It was a little bit out of their normal routine. I suspect they’ll be over that by Wednesday.”
The Braves scored only 12 points in the first quarter, but still had a slim two-point lead. Bountiful took charge of the game from that point forward; however, closing the half by scoring 19 points in the second quarter and holding a 13-point lead entering the second half.
Sam Merrill scored 14 points in the first half and said the team’s defense was the most important factor in the Braves being able to get a lead in the first half.
“The jitters are always there for that first game, but our defense was able to pick up its intensity,” Merrill said. “Offensively we were kind of stagnant to start (the game), but we started moving the ball better. It was our defense that got us moving first and foremost.”
By the end of the third quarter the Braves had more than doubled the Bulldogs in points, taking a 57-26 lead and finishing the night with most of its bench players.
Zac Seljaas, who was quiet during the first half, finished the game with 10 points. Jeff Pollard, who only had four points in the first half, ended the night with 14 points and 14 rebounds to record a double-double.
“Jeff was every bit as important in this game when you look at those 14 rebounds,” Maxwell said. “He was dominant on the boards and was blocking shots. (Provo) couldn’t get to the rim with him standing there, and then our defense really started to clamp down in the third quarter.”
Merrill also praised Pollard for the Braves offensive spark to start the second half. Pollard scored the first six points in the Braves 26-point outburst, and scored eight points in the quarter alone.
“We had Jeff open quite a bit in that first half, we just couldn’t get the ball to him,” said Merrill. “We were able to establish him to start the second half and when he’s going, he’s hard to stop.”
Merrill scored 20 points and had four assists for the Braves and was one of four players to finish with 10 or more points in the game.
Bountiful will face Mountain View Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.