Las Vegas • The Bountiful Braves should have wilted. It was the second half of their third game in 24 hours, and their opponent was an athletic, physical team from California that had battered its way to a halftime lead.
But where they should have tired, the Braves found energy. After the game, Bountiful stars Sam Merrill and Zac Seljaas walked off the court confident and strong, a few springs remaining in their steps.
Boys’ basketball Bountiful 62,Long Beach Poly 52Sam Merrill scores 19 points as the Braves win twice Friday, beating Durango (Nev.) 92-58 earlier in the day.
"We just have got to play," Merrill said of his team’s 62-52 win over Long Beach Poly on the second day of the Tarkanian Classic. "You can’t worry about being tired. That’s going to happen so you’ve got to push through it. One thing we did really well was play as a team. Because the more individual and selfish you get, the more tired you get."
The Braves had blown out Durango (Nev.) 92-58 earlier in the day, and for the first half against Long Beach Poly, it looked like 64 minutes of basketball since Thursday night was beginning to wear them down.
But instead, the second half belonged to the Braves. They spread the court, capitalizing on mismatches in the post. Merrill finished with 19, and Seljaas with 12. By the end, the duo had been too much for the Jackrabbits.
"That’s what we came down here to play, good teams, athletic teams — things we don’t see in Utah so much," Braves coach Mike Maxwell said. "We still had to be able to handle the pressure and be smart to win the game. I thought we took a big step forward tonight."
Playing two games Friday and winning them both made clear the Braves had moved on from Thursday’s heartbreaking 58-55 loss to El Camino Real of California.
But still the bad taste lingered in their mouths. After beating the Jackrabbits, the Braves knew they had missed a chance to have a special weekend.
"I told them if they could have played this way last night, we probably would have been in that championship game," Maxwell said. "We played better, and the competition was comparable, the two teams we played. We didn’t put them away last night, but this game we did."
Even so, the Braves had done what they’d set out to do in Vegas — improve.
"We always try to go and get better," Seljaas said. "We’re down here to get better for the actual season and hopefully go get the state championship."
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