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High school basketball: Tough defense offers Beaver an edge in wide open 2A girls tournament

BEAVER – Building a tough-as-nails defense is always a top priority at Beaver each season. Beavers coach Jonathan Marshall is a firm believer that the best team on the floor is the one who can take control on the defensive side of the ball.

"The teams that play good defense are the ones left standing at the end," Marshall said. "Teams don't win state without being good defensively."

When it comes to defense, Beaver is in good shape to emerge as that last team standing.

The Beavers claimed their sixth consecutive Region 13 championship behind a defensive unit that allowed 32.7 points per game in the regular season – the fewest allowed by any 2A team. Beaver has allowed more than 40 points in a game just four times this season.

When the Beavers flex their defensive muscle, the results are usually not pretty. Beaver has yielded a grand total of 85 total points in its last four games, culminating in a first-round thrashing of winless Gunnison where the Bulldogs made just three field goals and scored 13 points.

A year ago, the Beavers were equally formidable against opposing teams – allowing just 33 points per game. Marshall believe Beaver continues to excel defensively because his players do a good job of learning and embracing the team's defensive approach.

"If you look at last year, defensively, we held teams down," Marshall said. "We were one of the top teams in 2A defensively. I don't know if we are any better defensively this year than we were last year, but we kind of have the same approach to the game. We're pretty consistent in what we do."

In a season where no dominant team has emerged from the 2A ranks – like Richfield did en route to an undefeated season a year ago – Beaver seems to possess enough ingredients to advance past the quarterfinal round for the first time since winning a 2A title in 2005.

Still, the Beavers can be assured of seeing plenty of competition. With the exception of South Summit, every higher seed won first-round games at SUU last weekend. It's a safe assumption all of the remaining games at Richfield this weekend could end up being evenly matched.

Because every team alive has a reasonable expectation of winning it all, none of the remaining eight 2A teams are lacking for confidence.

"Nobody has really dominated 2A this year at all," North Sevier coach Lexa Larson said. "There's no team that has even gone undefeated in their own regions. It should be a fairly even matched tournament."

Both North Sevier and South Sevier – the most recent state champs in the 2A field – seem to be rounding into form at the right time after sluggish starts.

The Wolves have won six straight and seven of their last eight. The Rams rallied from a 4-7 start to win seven of their final eight regular season games and snag the Region 15 crown – the third region title in the last four seasons for South Sevier.

North Summit and Layton Christian could also be factors out of Region 14. The Braves have won 10 of 11 games since posting a 2-8 start. The Eagles boast an offense – featuring Jasmine Porter, the state's top scorer – that averages 53.9 points per game to lead all 2A schools.

Enterprise also appears capable of a championship run this weekend. The Wolves finished a game behind Beaver in Region 13. At 17-4, however, they own the best overall record among 2A teams and posted a 6-0 mark against 3A competition in the preseason.