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High school girls basketball: Bountiful survives 1st-round scare to outlast Olympus in 4A tournament

TAYLORSVILLE — Despite leading top-ranked Bountiful to 23 straight wins and a No. 1 ranking, Braves coach Joel Burton doesn’t expect any of his team's opponents to count themselves out just yet — and he hasn’t either.

With such remarkable success this season, 4A’s top-ranked squad knows it has developed an enormous target on its back and there isn’t a single team that wouldn’t love to drill a bull's-eye and spoil the impressive run.

“I know we’ve got a huge target and we are definitely a big bull's-eye for everybody we play,” Burton said after his team beat Olympus 59-47 in the first round of the 4A tournament Tuesday. “There are some really good teams here that you better be ready to play every time you hit the floor. We see everybody’s best game; they don’t have a whole lot to lose when they step on the floor against us.”

Fourth-seeded Olympus was the first of many squads to get a shot at taking down the reigning champs as the two teams faced off in the opening round of the 4A state tournament, and, with nothing to lose, the Titans unloaded their clip on the Braves.

Olympus came out firing behind its balanced scoring attack, led by Katie Warren and Samantha Soltis, as they combined for 11 points in the first quarter alone to take an early lead and all the momentum.

Or so it seemed.

The Braves quickly came storming back with dominant second and fourth quarters — where they outscored the visitors by a combined 18 points, 11 of which came in the first quarter alone — to dodge a lethal bullet and eventually survive the first-round scare.

“We’ve played Olympus before, and we didn’t want to be overconfident,” said Burton. “We handled them pretty easily at our place, but I think we kind of overlooked Olympus here. But in a lot of ways, I think it’s a good thing to slap us in the face and wake us up.”

After taking a six-point cushion at the break, Bountiful really picked up the intensity on both sides of the ball in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter, and received huge performances from star junior center Kennedy Redding (21 points, 12 boards) and junior guard Amy Chidester (12 points) in the back-and-forth affair.

Redding was terrific in the post all night long and recorded her state-leading 21st double-double of the season, while Chidester really stepped up her game and exploded for nine of her 12 total points in the final eight minutes to help put the score out of reach and seal the victory for her team.

“Honestly, she’s (Chidester) my main captain,” Burton said of his dynamic floor general. “She’s the one you see pure basketball instinct out of. Whenever we’ve been in trouble, Amy has always been the one who says, ‘We’re winning this thing,’ and really gets after it.”

With the win, the Braves advance to the quarterfinals of the 4A state tournament where they will take on No. 3 seed Maple Mountain Thursday morning at 11:10 a.m. at Salt Lake Community College.

“Honestly, right now, I’m not sure (how to stop them),” Burton said of slowing down Liz Eaton and the Maple Mountain offense. “We watched them play a bit in their game (earlier), so we’ll go home and try to figure that out and see what we can do to slow her down for Thursday. Hopefully, we will have a good plan put together by then.”

Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.

Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724