Bountiful • The referee lobbed the tipoff into the air, and the large Bountiful student section simultaneously tossed powder upward, covering the north bleachers in a plume of white.
The crowd’s gesture proved to be metaphorical, as Woods Cross’ chance of winning the game went up in a cloud of dust at the same moment. The Braves, led by their college-bound stars, bullied the Wildcats all night in a 82-58 win Wednesday.
Utah State-bound guard Sam Merrill, who finished with 21 points in essentially three quarters, said the atmosphere of playing a crosstown rival made it easy for the Braves to find a spark early.
“Our crowd was unreal,” Merrill said. “That definitely helps. We hadn’t played the way we thought we should the last couple games, so it was good to get back going. It’s always fun to beat those guys.”
Merrill did not do it alone. Zac Seljaas, who is headed to BYU, also had 21 points. Both of them found their groove early and buried the Wildcats under a haze of 3s and strong finishes at the hoop.
“When they’re making shots, it opens up the middle so much more,” big man Jeff Pollard said of Merrill and Seljaas’ impact. “And when I score in the middle, it opens up the outside so much more so they can make it rain like they did tonight.”
An alley-oop from Merrill to Seljaas in the second quarter was particularly flashy and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“We’ve been wanting to get one of those all year,” Merrill said. “I’ve had a couple times where I can but got a bit too scared. But it was there and the crowd was going. That was a great dunk.”
The alley-oop seemed to take what remaining life the Wildcats had out of them, as the Braves poured it on from there, solidifying their chances to repeat as Region 6 champs.
“I think we were [surprised] because we knew they were going to come out of halftime full-force,” Pollard said. “We were kind of expecting that, but we came out full-force and I think we just overpowered them.”
Bountiful 82,Woods Cross 58
O Sam Merrill and Zac Seljaas combine to score 42 points for Bountiful.
• The Braves’ lead hovers near the Wildcats’ point total for much of the third quarter.