Bountiful • That the students and fans had stuck around and were scattered on the court after the game, lingering with the players, was proof that the Bountiful Braves had won the game.
But the important detail was not just that the Braves had defeated American Fork 56-50 on Friday in a matchup of two teams believed to be among the best in the state. It was how they beat the Cavemen.
Bountiful 56, American Fork 50
O The win keeps Bountiful undefeated, at 4-0, while knocking the Cavemen to 4-2.
» Ryan Andrus and Brendan Bailey each score 15 points for American Fork in the loss.
On a night when Bountiful’s star point guard, Sam Merrill, made just two field goals, the Braves were able to keep the Cavemen at arm’s length throughout the game. And the key was no secret; a glance at the score sheet would show it, on the stat line directly to the right of junior Jeff Pollard’s name.
The 6-foot-8 forward poured in a game-high 17 points, dazzling with an array of impressive moves in the post and even showing off a 12-foot turnaround jumper. That he was paired against American Fork star and BYU commit Ryan Andrus for much of the game made the performance that much more impressive.
"Jeff stepped up to the challenge tonight," Merrill said. "Ryan’s a great player. Last year, Ryan kind of beat the crap out of us. Jeff kind of took that to heart and had a great game tonight. This team is not just me and [BYU commit] Zac [Seljaas]. That’s the beauty of it this year."
Before the game, Pollard thought back to Andrus’ performance last season, when he bullied the Braves on both ends of the court and led the Cavemen to a four-point victory. He prepared himself for the task he knew awaited. And when the tipoff came, he proved himself worthy.
"I remember from last year him being just a big body that can push people around," Pollard said. "I started preparing myself mentally to get in there and be physical. I think I did a pretty good job."
The Braves, who were Class 4A state semifinalists last season, return two stars in Merrill and Seljaas, who each scored 13 points.
But Pollard said it will be the supporting cast that could be the difference for the team this year.
"Teams know about Sam and Zac and what they can do," Pollard said. "It’s not that they’re not expecting me to play good, but I think if they’re shutting Sam or Zac down, I can be that third option."
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