SALT LAKE CITY – The Bountiful Braves performance against Olympus Friday night was unparalleled compared to their quarterfinal game just two nights before.
No major glaring issues, no problems grabbing rebounds, and fewer second chance scoring opportunities by the Braves defense helped Bountiful soar to a 63-54 victory over the Olympus Titans.
The win allows the Braves to compete for a 4A boys’ basketball title for the second time in four years.
“It took a heck of an effort to beat them,” said Braves coach Mike Maxwell. “They brought in guys off the bench who made some plays and hit shots … it really made it tough on us.”
The Braves started the game making seemingly every shot they put up, hitting four 3-pointers in the opening minutes that blew the game wide open from the tip-off. Jordan Bleak, who made a pair of 3-pointers in the quarter, blocked an Olympus shot and then turned around and hit a 3-pointer to kick-start the Braves team.
The block sent shockwaves through the Bountiful bench, which had nearly everyone standing before being warned by a referee to stay seated.
“He set the tone at that point,” Maxwell said. “He hits a shot and then they think they have a wide-open lay-up and Jordan comes out of nowhere and blocks the shot. That’s just a pure hustle play and he didn’t quit the whole game.”
One of the key players Bountiful focused on, Maxwell said, was Alec Monson. Monson averaged 21.8 points per game heading into Friday, but scored just 10 points against the Bountiful defense.
“That is terrific stuff when you hold them to 38 percent shooting and Monson struggles to get his 10,” Maxwell said. “I mean, he’s a good player because he was able to get to the foul line, but he could only find a way to get five shots off. That’s a tribute to our guys that played defense too.”
Bountiful maintained its lead through the first half, and Zac Seljaas found his shooting groove midway through the third quarter.
Seljaas made four straight buckets, including a 3-pointer, to help the Braves increase their lead back into double digits. Preceding his scoring run, Olympus fought back to get to within five points of the lead.
Sam Merrill made the final two shots for the Braves, including one at the buzzer, to give the Braves a 12-point lead after the third quarter.
Merrill continued his own scoring streak by making the first two baskets in the fourth quarter, and the Braves were able to close out the win from the free-throw line.
“At this point in the playoffs you win with your role players,” Maxwell said. “The obvious guys are going to get their praise, but it’s those unsung heroes from the bench that really get you through games at this point.”
Seljaas scored 22 points and had five rebounds and five assists. Merrill scored 18 points and Jeff Pollard scored only two points, but pulled down nine rebounds in the win.
Bountiful will face Orem in the 4A finals, which will tip-off at 1:30 p.m.