Woods Cross couldn't have played a worse first half Tuesday night in front of a home crowd that included the likes of Lavell Edwards. Edwards has attended a few games this year to watch grandson Matt Edwards, a starter for Woods Cross.
The Wildcats found themselves down 12-4 after the first quarter had ended. They got points only from Bryson Riddle and Edwards in the final three minutes of the quarter to even get to the four-point plateau. Poor shooting doomed them the entire first half.
Meanwhile, the first quarter saw some strong play from Ben Aird for Bountiful. The Braves were continually getting the ball to their big man for easy five-foot looks at the basket.
Woods Cross played an interesting 2-3 zone defense and Bountiful badly exploited the hole in the middle of the paint on Woods Cross. The Braves played a little high-low offense and Aird simply sat in the paint at about the 12-foot area and shredded the Wildcat defense from there.
The Wildcats shored up that defensive liability after the first quarter and Aird became virtually a non-factor the remainder of the game. Aird scored six in the first quarter, and threw in only six more the final 24 minutes for a total of 12 points in the game.
What Woods Cross didn't count on after shutting down Aird was the dynamite play of senior guard Broc Wallace. Wallace came off the bench in this one and lit up the Wildcats in the second quarter.
Wallace hit numerous outside jumpers to go along with a few lay-ups en route to scoring 12 of Bountiful's 18 second- quarter points. The second quarter got real ugly real quick for Woods Cross. At one point, Bountiful had built its lead up to 30-11 before a mini Wildcat run at the end of the half led by Brandon Cardon and Riddle drew Woods Cross to within 30-16 going into halftime.
One of the stories of the game was the strong play of Cardon off the Wildcats bench. The junior lefty guard tallied 12 points to spark the Wildcats.
Riddle had one of his stronger games of the year inside for Woods Cross. The 6- foot-6 senior led all scorers for the game with 19 points, many of them coming from six feet down low against Aird and company. Wallace again started the scoring off in the third quarter, but not after about two scoreless minutes from both teams. Those two Wallace points were followed up by a Holton Hunsaker lay-in and a Steve Wilding three-pointer to draw the Wildcats to 34-21.
The Braves had some big missteps in the second half with players complaining to referees and getting technical fouls called against them for what was being said to the officials when their complaints were voiced. Junior guard Josh Taylor was the first Bountiful player to get teed up.
Luckily, Riddle made only one of his two free throw attempts off the technical foul, but that relief was short lived for Bountiful. Cardon hit his first three of the game off the technical foul possession and brought the Wildcats to within 34-25 with 3:21 left in the third quarter.
By that point, Woods Cross had scored a modest nine points in the first four and a half minutes of third quarter play. The final 3:21 saw the Wildcats shred Bountiful for 15 more points to reach the 40-point barrier heading into the fourth quarter.
That resurgence was a combination of good play from Cardon, Hunsaker and Wild-ing. But, Bountiful's performance was greatly hindered by a very controversial non-flagrant foul call on Cardon when he up-ended Wallace while high in the air for a lay-in with 2:15 left.
Cardon took out Wallace's legs from under him while driving to the basket, sending Wallace face-first to the floor. Wallace made the shot and was awarded a free throw for the foul, but no flagrant was called and it could have easily gone down that way.
The Bountiful coaching staff was furious and immediately ran to Wallace's aid, as he lay on the ground face-first and still. As Bountiful head coach Mike Maxwell bickered with the officiating crew over the apparent non-call, Wallace finally got to his feet with blood streaming down his forehead. It was a grim sight not seen too often in high school basketball.
Wallace sustained a cut above his right eyebrow that the Bountiful trainer simply steri-stripped back together. While Wallace was being attended to on the bench, Taylor shot the free throw, and missed, in Wallace's place.
Meanwhile, Cardon hit another three-pointer to draw Woods Cross within 36-30 with 1:50 left in the quarter. Cardon hit another jumper and Hun-saker got three more to close to 37-35 with only 10 seconds remaining. And that's when things started to get even more chippy between the two rivals.
Bountiful's Anthony Hew-lett was fouled hard on a play down low and was about to get up with the help Woods Cross' Edwards when he was shoved in the chest by Bountiful's Nic Binks. Hewlett made his two free throws and then they headed to the other end of the court for some technical free throws that were awarded to the Wildcats as a result of the Binks push.
Riddle made his two attempts and it drew the Wildcats back to within 39-37 with just one second remaining on the clock. Woods Cross inbounded to Wilding, who was left wide open about 35 feet out. He spun and fired a buzzer beating three-pointer to close out an amazing comeback quarter for the Wildcats, up now 40-39.
The Woods Cross momentum, and lack of momentum for Wallace and Bountiful, continued on in the fourth quarter.
Taylor got a runner to fall in the lane to start off the fourth quarter scoring for both teams that put Bountiful back on top 41-40. Riddle answered Taylor with one out of two free throws made to tie it back up at 41 all.
The two Riddle made followed two big misses from the charity stripe by Aird. Wallace did get another two points after the Riddle free throws to put the Braves up 43-41 at the six-minute mark.
Wallace's scoring was answered quickly by Wilding's third three of the game to put Woods Cross ahead again 44-43 with 5:30 left in the game. The score would go back and forth the final five minutes.
The final five minutes saw some huge misses from the free-throw line for Woods Cross. Wilding missed one of two attempts that would have given the Wildcats a more comfortable four-point lead, but instead left it 51-48 with one minute remaining. After two made free throws from Taylor on the Bountiful end brought the Braves to within 51-50, Hunsaker was fouled and went to the charity line for the Wildcats with 25 seconds left.
Hunsaker missed the front end of the one-and-one and Bountiful was in business with the final possession. The Braves moved the ball across mid-court and called time out ,with about 15 seconds remaining, to devise a plan.
Whatever Maxwell called up worked to literal perfection. Taylor was able to penetrate to the middle of the key for a wide-open 12 footer. Instead of taking the shot, he passed down low to Aird for a somewhat difficult lay-up attempt.
Aird appeared to have been fouled on the play, but nobody officiating was going to make that call. Cardon rebounded the Aird miss and was immediately fouled. He made both free throw attempts sealing the 53-50 win for the Wildcats.
This game was huge for both clubs. The win put Woods Cross in sole possession of third place at 7-5. Coupled with the win was West losing at home to Highland to fall to 6-6 and fourth place.
Bountiful fell to 5-7 in league play and into a fifth- place tie with Murray, who inexplicably lost to last place East 45-42 Tuesday night. The Braves have two more region games remaining and need a strong push at the end here to simply get into the state playoffs. Bountiful was led in scoring by Wallace and his 18. The only other Brave to score in double figures was Aird with 12 points. Anthony Hewlett was limited to just five points for the contest while Taylor chipped in seven.
Woods Cross was led by Riddle's 19. Wilding scored all 12 of his points in the second half to equal Cardon for second in team scoring with 12. The three combined for 43 of the 53 team points.