So much for the rematch. Neither Bingham nor Highland put much stock in Tuesday's preseason meeting of last year's 5A state finalists - though the Miners avenged the title-game setback with a 55-50 win over the Rams.

"We're struggling too much to worry about it," said Bingham coach George Sluga. "I'm just glad we finally put together a decent fourth quarter. It was a good win for us."The Miners improved to 4-3, while the Rams dropped to 6-3.

"Neither team is as good as they were last year," said Highland coach Clark Godfrey. "Not even close."

Though pitting last year's finest, the rematch showed its preseason colors - complete with easy shots clanging off the iron and inconsistent intensity. However, not all was bad.

"I thought we did very, very well," said Godfrey. "We should have been blown out."

Hampered by an illness (flu-like symptoms) which sidelined star Todd Christensen for much of the game, Highland capitalized on a game-opening 7-0 run to hold the lead for three quarters. The Rams led by as many as 11 points in the first half before the Miners climbed back into contention.

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Trailing 39-38 entering the fourth period, Bingham took its first lead when Lance Barnes scored with 7:21 to play. A lead exchange ensued before the Miners hit four free throws midway through the quarter to stay on top.

"I thought we had better spacing on the floor," said Sluga, who watched the Miners reduce 10 first-half turnovers to just three in the final 16 minutes.

However, it took 11 Bingham free throws in the final 4:22 to preserve victory. Three-point baskets by Christensen, who missed the entire third period, and teammate Richard Bennion helped the Rams pull within 51-50 in the final minute, but it proved to be as close as Highland could get. The Miners capped the game with a 4-0 run.

Barnes led all scorers with 17 points, while Christensen and Bennion led the Rams with 14 and 13 respectively.

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