SANDY — Prior to Wednesday night, it's doubtful many of Jordan's basketball players even knew where Escalante High School was. After Wednesday's unique match-up between 5A Jordan and 1A Escalante, not only do the 'Diggers' players know that Escalante is 280 miles south of Sandy, but they also know that the Moquis are a pretty good basketball team.
In the season opener for both teams, Jordan need every one of its 12 3-pointers to hold off Escalante for the 79-68 victory.
"It's scary playing your first game," said Jordan coach Dave McConnell. "We definitely thought we could've played better, but hand it to them, they're the ones who kept us from playing better. They're a good, scrappy team."
If it wasn't for Escalante's poor free throw shooting, and Jordan's dozen treys, McConnell's experiment of playing an endowment game against a 1A team might've backfired.
Trailing by 10 at the half — a deficit that was 17 at one point — Escalante started attacking the basket much more in the second half, which helped it whittle the deficit to 39-36 early in the third quarter. The Moquis had two cracks at tying the game at 39-39, but a pair of 3-point attempts rattled off the rim.
Free throw shooting let Escalante down the rest of the way. It missed seven foul shots in the third quarter and finished the game shooting 17 of 29 from the line.
With more success from the line, instead of trailing 55-46 entering the fourth quarter, perhaps the Moquis might've only been down two or three.
Despite the deficit, the second-ranked team in 1A kept plugging away and with four minutes remaining, it cut Jordan's lead to 60-56 on a Garison Lyman layup. The Beetdiggers responded with a 7-0 run that put the game out of reach for the Moquis.
In addition to the foul shooting, Escalante coach Chad Allen thought turnovers and fatigue down the stretch ultimately cost his team.
"We played a reasonably good ballgame, except we wanted to win. We came here to win," said Allen. "We just didn't expect them to get so far ahead early on."
Escalante's Chad Cottam finished the game with 22 points, as did Jordan's Chris Cassity.
Early in the first half, Cassity accidently got popped in the nose and was forced to leave the game for several minutes. As Cassity sat on the bench, McConnell was thrilled to see his guard's anxiousness to get back on the court and was equally pleased to see him bury five 3-pointers.
"I thought he was the key; he hit some big guys for some easy baskets, and then he had some 3s," said McConnell.
Preston Richards chipped in with 15 points for Jordan, while Jeff Christenson added 13.