Fortunately for the Braves, the lowly Leopards had struggled to a 2-10 region record, and were in last place in Region 5 as the game began. Bountiful jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, and, after Ben Aird converted a three-point play with a free throw and two seconds remaining in the first quarter, Bountiful held a 13-7 lead. Aird dominated both sides of the court in the quarter, scoring seven points on offense, and blocking multiple shots and pulling down rebounds on defense.
In the second quarter, the Braves were able to extend their lead with the help of Robbie Stratton and Josh Taylor. Taylor, who was forced into more playing time at the point because of an injury to starter Broc Wallace, used his speed to penetrate the East defense and then find the open man when the East defense collapsed. Three times in the quarter Taylor found Stratton, who finished with eight points in the quarter, helping Bountiful stretch their lead to 25-13 going into the half.
As the third quarter began, Bountiful scored the first four points of the quarter, and, after Anthony Hewlett's slicing drive to the hoop, the Braves were ahead 29-13. However, finishing teams off has been a problem for the Braves all year, and once again, the Braves were unable to hold on to their big advantage. The East offense began to heat up, and after back-to-back three-pointers from Ricky Blaylock and Dan Johnson with under two minutes to go in the quarter the Leopards had cut the Braves lead to 29-25. Defensively, the Leopards went onto a full-court press in the third quarter and, without Wallace, the Braves floor leader, Bountiful struggled greatly to break the press. The Braves went on a six-minute scoring drought, but as time expired in the third quarter, Taylor penetrated deep into the Leopards' defense and drew the foul while attempting a lay-up. Taylor hit both free throws and Bountiful held a slight 31-27 lead as the teams headed into the final period.
The Braves looked reenergized as the fourth quarter began and were able to work the ball down low to Aird, who was scoreless in the second and third quarters. The Braves extended their lead once again to 37-31, but the Leopards continued to hang around.
Finally, with one minute remaining in regulation, after another Blaylock three-pointer, the Leopards tied the game at 41-41. It was the first tie for the Leopards since 6-6 early in the first quarter. Both teams had opportunities to end the game in the final minute, but neither could connect on a game winner and the fourth quarter ended with both teams knotted at 41 and needing overtime to decide a winner.
The Braves were the first to score in overtime, after Hewlett hit Taylor on a sweet backdoor pass for an easy lay-up. Later in the period, Hewlett got a steal after a Dane Nelson deflection on defense, and took the ball coast-to-coast on the break before being fouled and hitting both free throws to give the Braves a 45-42 lead with a minute remaining. The final three points for the Braves came at the line from Taylor. Taylor was 7-8 total from the line and his makes in the final minute were crucial in ensuring the Braves' 48-44 victory over the Leopards.
After the game Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell commented on Taylor's play.
"We needed him to play some extra minutes with Broc out of the game," said Maxwell. "He stepped into the game and gave us a big boost through-out."
Taylor finished with nine points to go with six assists. The Braves were led in scoring by Aird and Stratton who had 11 points each. Nic Binks was also a strong presence for the Braves, pulling down nine boards to go with nine points and dominating the low post for most of the game.
For the Braves it was refreshing to be on the right side of a close game, after having lost a lot of close games this season.
"We've had a lot of tough, close losses," said Maxwell. "Tonight we were able to get a close win when we needed it most, and I'm proud of our guys."
With the win, and the Spartans' 51-40 loss to the Cyprus Pirates, the Braves (6-7) moved one game ahead of the Spartans (5-8) and into a fourth-place tie with West in Region 5. The top five teams from the region will go to the tournament in March. The Braves can clinch their spot in the tournament in their final game Tuesday night, on the road against Murray. If Bountiful loses to the Spartans, then they may have to play a play-in game against Murray or West, depending on how the Panthers fare at home, against Cyprus (3-10) Tuesday night.