Following a 15-point victory over Northridge last Tuesday, the Braves entered Thursday night facing off against one of the toughest 5A teams in Bingham.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Braves were again winners over another 5A squad, beating the Miners 50-46 thanks to a pair of double-digit scorers and key fourth quarter free throws.
“We knew we had to play really well on defense in order to win,” said Brit Harding, who finished the game with 17 points and five rebounds. “Preseason is about getting better; working on the things we need to fix so we can get to the postseason. We played pretty good tonight.”
Harding was able to quickly help the Braves obtain a slim lead after the first quarter, scoring eight of the team’s 12 points. He also had a key steal and a basket in the fourth quarter, ending a Miners’ run while extending the Braves slim lead from three to five points with four minutes remaining in the game.
“Communicating was a big thing during the off-season,” said Harding. “We worked on it the entire off-season; that and our team defense. I think we did both of those well tonight.”
Other than falling behind by five points to start the game, once the Braves captured the lead they never gave it back.
The Braves extended a 3-point first quarter lead to four points by half time, with Brandon Yates scoring the first four Bountiful points in the quarter. With the score at 18-17, Ryan Turner hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds to help the Braves maintain a slim margin.
“For us to play teams like Bingham, it makes both of us better,” said Braves coach Mike Maxwell. “That’s why we schedule them. I don’t care if we lose as long as we learn from it, but a win against this team is pretty special because they’re so tough.”
Bingham’s toughness began to show in the fourth quarter. Trailing by nine entering the final eight minutes, the Miners were able to close the gap to as little as three points.
Bingham’s Eric Hannay even nailed a pair of 3-pointers that gave the Miners just a two-point disadvantage with eight seconds remaining in the game.
However, a pair of free throws by Brandon Yates helped the Braves get out of the gym with a win.
“We tried to get inside the whole first half,” said Maxwell. “And we just couldn’t do it. Those guys were big and strong and physical and they kept us off the (free-throw) line. We tried to do something different just to get to the line and it worked better later in the game.”
Yates’ made free throws were just the 15th and 16th free throw attempts Bountiful had the entire game. The Braves didn’t even go to the stripe until late in the third quarter, when Harding made a pair to close out the scoring for the quarter.
Bountiful missed just two shots from the line, finishing with 14 of 16 attempts made.
Despite allowing single-digit scoring efforts from the Miners the first three quarters, Bingham outscored the Braves with 22 fourth-quarter points.
Of those 22, 12 points came from beyond the arch.
“Our perimeter defense is something we have to work on,” said Maxwell. “They made a lot of 3-pointers late in the game and that’s something we have to get right as the season moves along. It’s only November, so there’s plenty of time.”
Yates finished the game with 10 points and four assists while Tommy Lalli scored seven points with four rebounds and three assists.
Bountiful (2-0) will face American Fork Friday night at home while the Miners (1-1) face West Jordan on the road the same night.