When their jumpers aren’t falling or their attempts around the basket are spinning off the rim, the American Fork Cavemen dig in. For 32 minutes in Thursday’s Class 5A quarterfinal against Brighton, the Cavemen never stopped digging, contesting 3-point shots and layups.
"Defense is the biggest part of the game," said American Fork’s Brendan Bailey. "If you don’t play defense, you can’t win, you can’t succeed."
O American Fork holds Brighton without a field goal for 16:29 in dominant defensive performance in 50-27 5A quarterfinal win.
» Cavemen forward Brendan Bailey had 10 points, four steals and four rebounds and flustered Brighton star Brock Miller throughout Thursday night.
» American Fork faces Pleasant Grove in Friday’s Class 5A semifinal at 7:30 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.
Despite just a four-point lead at halftime, the Cavemen locked down in the second half, holding the Bengals to zero points in the third quarter and without a field goal for 16 minutes and 29 seconds in their 50-27 win.
The field-goal drought came to an end with 1:38 left in the fourth when Derek Devashrayee scored a layup, the Bengals’ first basket since the 2:07 mark in the second quarter.
"That’s what our guys know," said American Fork coach Doug Meacham. "They know you get into a state tournament, you have to defend, you got to get stops because you’re not always going to be able to hit shots four nights in a row."
The shots weren’t falling for American Fork in the first half, as the Cavemen shot just 28 percent from the floor. But the second half wasn’t anything like the first. Spencer Johnson opened the half with a wide-open 3-pointer and was soon followed by a 3-pointer by Bailey.
American Fork had four players in double figures in the win, led by Ryan Andrus (12 points) and Tyler Rawson, Bailey and Johnson — who all had 10 points each.
But it was Bailey’s defensive presence on Brighton star Brock Miller which proved vital for the Cavemen. The lengthy forward shadowed Miller and frustrated him into a 2-for-10 outing, including seven turnovers. American Fork forced the Bengals into 13 turnovers, and after Miller’s team-high 11 points, didn’t allow another player to eclipse four points.
"You’ve just got to out-work the other player," Bailey said. "You’ve just got to have that defensive mentality that you know you can stop their best player, because he was their best player."
The lockdown defensive performance earned American Fork a matchup with region rival Pleasant Grove in Friday’s Class 5A semifinal at 7:30 p.m. at the Huntsman Center. The two programs split their region meetings this season.
"They’ve got a bunch of workhorses with solid guards that can shoot the ball, and they demonstrated it," Meacham said of the Vikings’ dominant win over Alta earlier Thursday.
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