South Jordan » The stage was set for an intense showdown between two of the top teams in Region 4, with sole possession of second place at stake.
Then, before you knew it, the hype fizzled out.
American Fork took advantage of a self-imposed stoppage of play by Bingham in the first quarter to jump out to a 14-point halftime lead and coast to a surprisingly easy 53-36 victory over the host Miners on Friday.
Trailing 6-3 in the first quarter, Bingham inexplicably held on to the ball for nearly three consecutive minutes, which caused many in attendance to implore for something to be done. The Cavemen were in control by the time the action restarted.
"Coach told us before the game that they might be holding the ball on us, and if they do, it means they can’t play with us," American Fork’s Kyle Line said. "I’ve never seen anything like that. We used it as a rest time for us."
American Fork (6-3, 14-8) ended the first half on a 15-0 run and led 21-7 at halftime. The margin swelled to 19 points after the Cavemen scored the first five points of the second half.
"I think the purpose was to push the state to get a shot clock," American Fork coach Doug Meacham said. "I thought about getting some popcorn. Some things can play mind games with young high school kids, but you have to expect the unexpected. I told the team when [Bingham] did play, just be ready."
The Miners, who had won three consecutive games, had trouble establishing much of anything. Bingham substituted its starting five for bench players hoping for a spark, but to no avail.
Meanwhile, American Fork got its inside-outside game rolling, as Ryan Andrus and Tyler Rawson controlled the paint and Line was hot from the perimeter. Line made five 3-pointers, including three in the third quarter, and finished with a game-high 19 points. He came in averaging just five points per game.
"We’ve got great bigs, and they demand a lot of attention," Line said.
Jace Powell’s 3-pointer got Bingham (5-4, 14-8) within 32-19 late in the third quarter before Line made back-to-back 3s to end the period.
After allowing 62 points in a victory over Bingham two weeks ago, the Cavemen nearly cut that total in half Friday.
"Defensively we’re getting better," Meacham said. "Guys are coming to help, and our bigs are using their body more. Those are things you have to have down the stretch. When we establish the paint and get touches inside, it kind of takes the wind out of teams’ sails. We’re tough to challenge when the ball gets in there."
Andrus and Rawson combined for 14 points for American Fork, while Brendan Bailey added nine points. Braxton McKee led Bingham with nine points, while Brandon Morley had seven points and eight rebounds.
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