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4A boys’ basketball: Bountiful pulls away down the stretch

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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Alec Monson (20), Olympus, blocks a shot by Spencer Divver (12), Highland, in 4A state basketball tournament action at the Huntsman Center, Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

By Bubba Brown

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Mar 05 2014 05:04PM
Updated Mar 5, 2014 11:42PM

Bountiful’s Jeff Pollard snagged the missed layup and pump-faked midway through the fourth quarter, the Braves’ bench ready to erupt but waiting with bated breath. The junior forward surged up through the contact and got the ball to fall through the net.

Pollard spun and took long strides to the free-throw line. He threw his fist through the air three times in quick succession, unleashing aggression that had been bubbling for nearly four quarters of basketball.

The favorites in the Class 4A tournament were asserting themselves at long last.

"At that point, we kind of just took over," Pollard said after the Braves finally had dispatched Mountain View 61-46 in Wednesday’s Class 4A state quarterfinals.

But Mountain View gave Bountiful a battle the Braves will long remember. For more than three full quarters, the Bruins pestered and swarmed and outhustled the Braves, who hadn’t been in a close game since December.

The Bruins’ pressure defense stymied the Braves’ offense. And their effort on the offensive glass put a team many consider the best in the state on its heels. The Braves led by just one after the third.

"We knew they were a good team, but I don’t think we expected that," said Braves star guard Sam Merrill, who had 16 points and eight rebounds. "They were a pretty dang good team. We were caught a little off-guard, but we were able to battle back and get it going."

The Braves, who had a size and skill advantage, proved to be too good in the end. They limited the Bruins to two offensive boards in the second half. They pulled away midway through the fourth.

The team many expected to cruise to the state title had flirted with disaster and came out alive on the other side.

"That was good for us to have a close game," Merrill said. "We’re pretty experienced. We’ve been here before, so I think that helped us today. That was definitely good for us. I’m not saying we wanted a close game, but it was good for us to get challenged a little bit and fight through."

bbrown@sltrib.com

Twitter: @BubbaSLTrib

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