WEST JORDAN — Copper Hills basketball team has been tough to figure out this season — even for its coach.
"I don't understand it, but I wish I did," said Jeff Price of his team's up-and-down play. "We can go out and get beat by almost 50 points and then turn around and play probably our best game of the season. If I knew why, I would probably be a millionaire."
The Grizzlies have had some great wins, and some bad losses. Even after the preseason, no one is quite sure exactly what type of team is going to step on the floor. The puzzle continued Tuesday as Copper Hills beat West Jordan 46-44.
"I thought our kids came out and competed on every series," Price said. "They put forth a great effort and they just refused to lose."
After the Grizzlies' game Friday, a 45-point loss to Bingham, the team needed to respond with a better effort — it did. Josh Nuttall scored the game's opening bucket inside, and behind the play of Jesse Hallock and Sean Bailey, the Grizzlies jumped to an 11-8 lead after the first quarter. The solid play continued through the second quarter as Copper Hills held a 21-20 lead.
It could have been a much larger cushion if not for the play of Spencer Trask. The Jaguar's leading scorer had 12 of the team's 20 points and seemed to be the only player being assertive on the offensive end of the court.
The second half saw much of the same action. Nuttall continued to lead the Grizzlies while Trask was the man for the Jaguars. The score remained close until the opening minutes of the fourth quarter when an unexpected "twist" may have helped the Grizzlies.
Jesse Hallock made a nice move to the basket to score his eighth point, but when he came down he landed on someone's foot and turned his ankle. Hallock's loss was Cory Hughes opportunity. Hughes hit two free throws on the next possession, and after Trask cut the lead to two points at 37-35, he nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to push the lead back to five.
"I thought Hughes played some great minutes down the stretch for us," Price said. "He is not normally playing during crunch time, but I thought he hit some big shots and kept his composure for us."
The Jaguars tied the score at 44 with just over a minute to go on another Trask bucket —he led all scorers with 22— but that only set the stage for Nuttall. With 33 seconds to play, Nuttall was fouled on his way to the basket. He stepped to the line and buried the two free throws for the final margin. Nuttall finished with 17 points and nine rebounds to earn his coach's praise.
"Nuttall came to play tonight. He was solid with the ball and made better decisions than I've seen all year. He is getting better and better every game," Price added.
The win brings Copper Hills record to 6-7 and 1-1 in the region, but according to Nuttall there is still a lot of work to do.
"We want to get better every game," he said. "We need to go out and play our best every game and not just some of the time. We want to make state (tournament), and we will have to do a better job to get there."