Woods Cross • Bountiful players zipped the ball around the court, and Woods Cross finally called off the dogs and stopped attempting to foul. The large Bountiful student section chanted from the upper reaches of the stands: "Region champs! Region champs!"
After the buzzer, the Braves shuffled through the postgame handshake. Unlike their fans, they were subdued. There was no huddle on the court or flamboyant proclamations.
The Braves' first goal had been completed, but there are others ahead a state title, namely.
"I guess we kind of expect to win region," said guard Sam Merrill. "I guess we're not a team that makes it all out of control we just go about our business."
Merrill had 21 points and Zach Seljaas added 18, and the Braves answered each Wildcat run to win 72-62 Thursday evening. The win locked up Region 6 for the Braves and boosted their winning streak to 17 games.
Bountiful opened on a 13-4 run, but Woods Cross quickly closed the gap. The rest of the game played out in a similar fashion. Skylar Farnes had 27 for Woods Cross, but Merrill got to the free-throw line too frequently down the stretch for the Wildcats to make much headway.
"That's how rivalry games are. They always make runs," Merrill said. "But we did a good job keeping our composure, making free throws and not letting them cut too much into our lead."
The Braves have one last obstacle to finishing undefeated in region play for the second consecutive year. If they can win on the road against Highland on Tuesday, they'll have duplicated a special feat.
"That's obviously another one of our goals," Merrill said. "We don't ever want to lose, and going undefeated is something we've wanted to do."
Getting a test from Woods Cross, along with what Bountiful expects to be a close game against Highland, is crucial for preparation heading into the playoffs.
"There's probably not going to be any blowouts in state," Merrill said. "So to win on your rival's home court, to be able to withstand that, that's a big help."
Storylines Bountiful 72, Woods Cross 62
R Bountiful's Sam Merrill had 21 points to finish off the Wildcats and lock up Region 6 for the Braves.
• The Braves have won 17 straight games.