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High school basketball: Bountiful boys continue hot streak

Highland's Lew Evans (right) gets tangled up with Bountiful's Dan Prawitt during their league game on Tuesday.
Highland's Lew Evans (right) gets tangled up with Bountiful's Dan Prawitt during their league game on Tuesday.
Keith Johnson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – A rough start in the preseason made it appear the last of the steam had gone out of Bountiful's engine. The Braves lost five times in their first eight games and played the part of a group who might struggle just to claim a playoff spot in Region 6.

These days, Bountiful looks like its same ol' dominant self.

Behind some clutch fourth-quarter plays from junior forward Nick Williams, the Braves pulled away for a 64-57 victory over Highland on Tuesday night. Bountiful (11-5, 7-0) not only claimed a win for the eighth consecutive game, but it also stayed unbeaten in region play.

The past month and a half has seemed like a completely different season for the Braves. Their recent success, said Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell, is simply a result of his players gaining maturity.

"We told them all along by the time the league rolled around that we would be ready to go," Maxwell said. "It was just a learning process and (we told them) not to get distraught about losses in the preseason because they don't count. What counted was getting better and that's what this team did."

Williams had a hand in making sure the good times kept rolling.

Down nine points to start the fourth quarter, Highland (8-8, 3-4) opened the quarter on a 7-0 run and pulled to within 45-43 on Nate Fakahafua's layup with 6:02 left. The Rams finally tied the game up at 47-47 all after Dillon Salazar got whistled for a technical foul and Sam Orchard – who scored a game-high 27 points – drained four free throws.

That's when Williams went to work. He stole the ball and drove in for a layup to put Bountiful back ahead by two. Then, after Orchard answered on the other end with a backdoor layup, Williams put the Braves up for good when he buried a 3-pointer to make it 52-49 with 3:19 left.

Those were the defining moments in a night where he scored 22 points, collected eight rebounds and had three steals to lead Bountiful.

"I was just trying to be aggressive and help us go to the basket," Williams said. "I felt like our whole team did a great job in the fourth quarter playing team defense. Dillon did a great job of shutting down Orchard.

Bountiful did not score another field goal after that one. But the Braves did not need a basket, after knocking down 12 of 17 free throws in the final two minutes to ice the game.

For a while it seemed like Bountiful had already built enough of a cushion to put away the Rams before the fourth quarter even started.

After Highland scored on its first three possessions of the second quarter – going up 21-16 on back-to-back baskets from Orchard – the Braves rallied to tie the game and, from there, went on a 12-2 in the final three minutes of the half to take a 33-26 halftime lead.

Salazar and Dan Prawitt took turns hitting baskets in the third quarter to keep the Rams at bay and helped their team take a 45-36 lead after three quarters. Still, Bountiful knew that holding down Highland indefinitely would be impossible.

When the expected comeback attempt finally did occur, the Braves worked to mentally prepare themselves to weather the storm.

"They're a great team, so you just got to expect those runs," Williams said. "We did a good job of keeping our composure and not getting flustered from them going on runs. We did a great job of just running our (offense) and getting baskets when we needed them."

Highland's loss put a damper on an evening where the school inducted Utah assistant coach Morgan Scalley in the Highland Hall of Fame.

Scalley enjoyed a standout football career with the Rams before going on to greater success with the Utes as a defensive standout on Utah's 2004 Fiesta Bowl champion team.