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Provo sends West packing in 1st round

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OGDEN — When the Provo Bulldogs control a basketball game's tempo with their tough, in-your-face defense, they're mighty tough to beat.

And for at least three quarters Monday in Provo's 50-32 win over the West Panthers in the first round of the boys 4A basketball playoffs, the Panthers didn't get many open shots. Provo entered the game with a plan of not letting West's quick guards get to the hole and not letting West's good shooters get any space in which to square up to the hoop.

"That's what we were after, trying to be there on the catch and trying to control their penetration," Provo coach Craig Drury said.

The Panthers' 33 percent shooting was partly to blame for their desperation shooting in the fourth quarter. For the first three quarters, however, the Bulldogs' defense had a lot to do with the poor shooting exhibition. The Panthers made only 3-of-12 3-point shots and never scored more than nine points in a period. Provo also outrebounded the Panthers 35-24, with most of that board disparity coming in the second half.

"I was really happy with how we played defensively," Drury said.

Still, Provo's defense might have contributed significantly to the easy win, but it didn't overshadow a solid offensive outing. The Bulldogs shot 44 percent from the floor and hit 11-of-14 free throws. Leading the way was 6-foot-9 center Chris Collinsworth, who had a solid overall game with 23 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks. The big guy got some help from two-guard Sean Thornton, who tossed in 12.

"He's just given us that one-two punch," Drury said of Thornton's reliable contribution the final half of the season.

Both teams started the game with cold-shooting hands as the Panthers crawled out to an 8-6 lead. The only guy who looked even lukewarm was West's Nate Mensah, who drained two first-quarter treys and finished the game with a team-high 16.

In the second quarter, the Bulldogs finally began asserting their inside muscle, geared around Collinsworth. Behind his 11 first-half points Provo took a 19-14 lead into the locker room. Actually, West was within a point until the Bulldogs scored the final two hoops of the half. First, Brandon Davies banked in a leaner and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Provo grabbed the rebound, which led to a Collinsworth dunk. Provo outscored West 16-4 in the paint in the first half.

Mensah tried to keep West in the game in the third, but Collinsworth answered every basket. Thornton scored six straight midway through the third that put the Bulldogs up by 11. A Keifer Collins tip at the buzzer gave Provo a 35-23 lead. The real back-breaking run for Provo came when Collinsworth ran off six straight, which included another dunk, early in the fourth, giving the Bulldogs an insurmountable 19-point lead.

E-mail: jimr@desnews.com