Draper • The visiting section wildly celebrated a dunk during Tuesday’s third quarter.
But while Highland had the highlight moment at the rim, Juan Diego got to the basket much more often and was more successful at getting points in a 61-47 victory.
“I just told our guys to stay composed. It’s not a big deal, it’s just two points,” said Juan Diego’s Matt Kitzman, a senior point guard who had 19 points. “I think we played well. The third quarter was a little bit rough, but with an inexperienced team, that’s going to happen sometimes.”
The Soaring Eagle held a six-point lead at the intermission.
Kitzman hit a shot and a free throw soon after to push the lead to nine. But Highland answered with a 9-4 run with a dunk by Trayton Keyes to spark the streak … and the visiting Rams’ supporters.
But Juan Diego (1-1), which started the season with a loss to Orem last week, weathered the the mini-storm.
“We missed a lot of easy shots. I think we were going for degree-of-difficulty instead of finishing the layup,” said Rams coach Jim Boyce, whose team was paced by a dozen points each from Elijah Shelton and Liki Makaui. “It’s just game one. You never want to panic after Game 1.”
The Soaring Eagle frequently made the less-spectacular layups, particularly through the efforts of three players.
Kitzman started the fourth quarter with consecutive drives to the hoop to give Juan Diego a 10-point lead.
Raimoana Tinirauarii, who finished with nine points and nine rebounds, also dished off three times in successful forays into the lane.
One beneficiary of effort like that was 6-foot-6 senior Jason Ricketts, who had a game-high 20 points while also hauling down nine boards.
The Soaring Eagle scored a conventional three-point play — basket and a free throw — four times in the final quarter.
“There was a stretch there that was giving me a lot of heart attacks, where we had a bunch of turnovers,” said Juan Diego coach Drew Trost, whose team advanced to the Class 3A state championship game a year ago before falling to Ridgeline. “You know, a lot of people talked about all the players we had coming back. We’ve got talented guys, but they haven’t played a lot of varsity. We lost a lot, so it’s kind of a learning curve.”
JUAN DIEGO 61, HIGHLAND 47
• Senior Jason Ricketts scores 20 points while point guard Matt Kitzman adds 19 for Juan Diego.
• Ricketts and junior Ramoana Tinirauarii snag nine rebounds apiece to limit Highland’s second chances.
• The visiting Rams get 12 points apiece from Elijah Shelton and Liki Makaui in their season opener.