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High school boys basketball: 5A first-round notebook

Brighton's Osa Masina pushes up a shot with American Fork's Dallin Harley defending during play Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, in the first round of the 5A boys basketball tournament at Weber State in Ogden. Brighton won 60-44.
Brighton's Osa Masina pushes up a shot with American Fork's Dallin Harley defending during play Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, in the first round of the 5A boys basketball tournament at Weber State in Ogden. Brighton won 60-44.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Here’s a running notebook of news and notes from throughout Monday’s opening round of the 5A state tournament at the Dee Events Center:

Pleasant Grove sparkles defensively

In scouting Alta ahead of Monday’s 5A opener, two things jumped out at Pleasant Grove.

First, Alta big man Ibrahim Gerlach had the potential to cause matchup problems for Tyler Bott. More importantly was how all the Region 3 coaches defended Neema Namdar.

In all the game film Pleasant Grove coach Randy McAllister watched, teams were always face-guarding Namdar. McAllister thought there’s no need to reinvent the wheel with his game plan.

“Those coaches aren’t idiots. They’re doing that for a reason, so who I’m I to think I’m smarter and we're better than all those teams,” he said.

“We thought we wouldn’t do that initially, but then I watched so much game film and every one of them tried to not let him touch it as much as possible. There must be a reason. And then I saw some games from earlier this season when he was hitting five or six (3-pointers) a game. We wanted to keep him from getting hot.”

Nick Beard was a shooter Pleasant Grove was keyed on as well, and McAllister thought Riley Court’s defense around the perimeter was terrific, and played a big role in Alta only making 5-of-22 from 3-point range.

“What Riley does better than anyone on the team he can help off of a shooter and recover. He’s the only guy I trust to do that. We guarded Neema pretty tight,” said McAllister.

Neema actually had a good game, making 3-of-5 3-pointers, but the rest of his teammates struggled from behind the arc.

Down low, Gerlach had just as much trouble, thanks to smart defending by Bott.

“Tyler Bott is not a perimeter defender. We were worried ’cause (Gerlach) can hit a three but his strength is driving to the basket. Tyler did a great job of playing just far enough off he’d think about shooting but not so close he could go by you. He really spaced him well,” said McAllister.

Undersized Davis handles Granger's Makol Mawien down low

The Darts don't field an imposing frontcourt size-wise, but don't let that fool you. On Monday, posed against 6-foot-8 Makol Mawien, Davis' bigs banged away with the future Utah Ute, holding him to just seven points scored on 2-of-9 shooting from the field.

The two primary players limiting Mawien were Caleb Leonhardt (6-5) and Ben Rigby (6-6.) According to Davis coach Chad Simms, Leonhardt got the specific man-on-man guarding duty, while Rigby was asked to help out at any and every opportunity.

As Mawien's final numbers suggest, both players executed their defensive assignments close to perfection.

“Caleb Leonhardt did a great job on him down low,” Simms said. “And then Ben Rigby really came over to help out. You can’t stop him one-on-one, so I think Caleb played him pretty well.”

Most of Mawien's work had to come from the perimenter, as Leonhardt was consistently able to deny him the ball down low while his teammates, particularly Rigby, rotated efficiently.

“They did an amazing job on him defensively,” added Davis guard Jesse Wade. “They’re studs. They’re not the tallest people, but they work hard, and I love those guys.”

Hunter prevails thanks to decisive run

Basketball is a game a runs, and on Monday, trailing No. 4 Weber by 12 points in the fourth quarter, Hunter strung together one of the most explosive and impressive runs in recent memory.

“I don’t even know what happened,” Hunter star forward and Oregon State signee Noah Togiai said. “All of the sudden all of our shots starting falling, we started running up and down the court and everything started going extremely well for us.”

After a quick timeout, the Wolverines picked up the intensity and urgency on both sides of the ball to close out the game on a dominating 22-3 run.

“We had a couple of plays where our kids got a body into somebody and actually boxed out instead of just trying to rely on our length, and that made a big difference,” Hunter coach Robb Collins said. “We just basically kept telling them to keep believing, even though I had a little doubt myself and was getting nervous there, but credit them because they kept fighting.”

Togiai really turned on the jets in the fourth quarter, as his dunk gave Hunter a 46-45 lead late in the fourth, drilled four key free throws down the stretch and secured the game-sealing offensive rebound as the clock ran out to lead the charge.

Meanwhile, teammate McKay Meidlinger also came up big down the stretch as he led a 3-on-1 fast break before pulling up beyond the arc and burying the momentous trey and put away the Warriors.

“When McKay pulled up on that 3-on-1, and as I’m yelling at him to go to the rim, he pulls up and buries it (3-pointer),” said Collins. “If he misses that shot, we probably don’t win that game. You’ve got to credit the kids; they battled really hard and I’m really proud of them.”

Brighton's Osa Masina proves he's not just a football player

Brighton’s Osa Masina smiled when he was teased about his 0-for-7 shooting from the free throw line on Monday.

“I don’t think I’ve shot that bad since second grade,” said Masina.

Masina is actually a good free throw shooter, as his coach laughed it off as just a bad day at the office. Everything else Masina did in Brighton’s 60-44 victory over American on Monday was superb.

The senior finished with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. It was a typical performance from Masina, who proved once again that he’s not just a bruiser football player playing basketball. He’s a basketball player too.

“He’s our best passer, he’s one of our best rebounders, he’s great with the basketball, and he can shoot it too,” said Gardner. “Beyond all that, he’s a competitor.”

Masina thought briefly about not playing basketball this season, not wanting to get injured ahead of the college football season this fall. He talked about it briefly with his parents, but at the end o the day, he said, “I love this sport and I love these guys.”

Brighton certainly wouldn’t be where it’s at without Masina’s contributions this season.

“We love Osa Masina. He is a great leader, a competitor. He’s really helped elevate our team into a contender. It’s a credit to him. A lot of kids could say, ‘peace out, I’m going to play football.’ He could’ve done that very easily and no one would’ve blamed him, but his commitment to Brighton High School and to his teammates and those things is what high school athletics is about.”

Viewmont beats Taylorsville at its own game

Few teams push the ball like Taylorsville, so entering any matchup teams often try to slow them down. But not Viewmont, which welcomed Taylorsville's frenetic pace and thrived with it, blowing by with a 70-44 win in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.

"We still wanted to take the transition opportunities when they presented themselves for us because that's where you get your easy baskets," said Viewmont coach Jeff Emery. "We didn't want them to set their defense every time because that's hard offense when you allow them to do that."

The Vikings didn't get out and run just haphazardly, however. Emery encouraged his team to be selective with their pace, a directive his players responded to positively for the most part.

"We wanted to be intelligent when we pushed it," Emery said. "We didn't want it to be a rag-tag, up-and-down (game). In fact, I called a timeout (early) because I thought we took some bad shots where I reminded the guys that we needed to share the ball and take good shots."

Viewmont's transition opportunities largely came by virtue of a stingy defense that consistently got hands in passing lanes and forced ill-advised shots throughout.

"One of the things we track is deflections and we had as many deflections at the half as we've had for some time," Emery said of his team, which forced 17 Taylorsville turnovers. "Our zone was pretty active ... and that's what makes you a good defensive team. We're not the most athletic team around, but our kids are finally getting to where they anticipate well."

Hot-shooting Lone Peak buried Copper Hills early

As four-time defending 5A state champ Lone Peak prepared for yet another state title run, it knew it would have to play to its potential night in and night out.

And on Monday night, facing an extremely tough and high-flying Copper Hills squad, the Knights put on a show in their best shooting performance of the year.

Copper Hills is a great team. We played very well tonight — we hit shots early and got up on them,” Copper Hills coach Quincy Lewis said. “That’s one of the better games we’ve played all year, but hey, that’s when you want to play them, right?”

Lone Peak star guard Frank Jackson and senior forward Nick Curtis had the hot hands in the first half combining for 36 points on 13-of-16 shooting — including 7-for-7 from beyond the arc — to get their team rolling.

“It was nice (to get into an early rhythm). We just stayed aggressive, and when the ball goes in, you’ve got to shoot it, right?” Jackson said. “Nick stepped up big for us tonight. I have so much confidence in Nick, and that’s what he does and what he brings to the table.”

Jackson and Curtis finished the night with a combined 59 points on 22-of-29 shooting, including 9-of-10 from deep, to lead the charge.

However, the Knights also had two other players score in double figures, as Dylan Hedin sank all five of his shots and netted 13 points while Christian Popoola also fed off his teammates and tallied 21 more.

Lone Peak’s prolific offense finished the night shooting over 50 percent from both the field and from beyond the arc and came up just one point shy of the century mark.

“I absolutely love playing with my guys,” added Jackson. “We played some great team basketball tonight and it was a total team win. It’s fun; it’s a really fun week.”