ST. GEORGE — Altamont senior forward Riley Braman was just doing his job, and that's exactly what his coach wanted as Braman scored 19 points and teammate Zach Hansen did the same in a 55-53 upset win over Rockwell Saturday in the first round of the 2A state tournament.
The two post players dominated the paint, and Braman came up with big baskets at opportune times in the close win.
"That's his job, to be physical," Altamont coach Eric Watson said. "I appreciate him being very physical. He's been doing that all season. I appreciate his hard work and effort."
Braman hit the go-ahead basket in heavy traffic under the hoop with 30 seconds left to make it 54-53. Hansen added a free throw after a rebound with 4.9 seconds left when the Marshals missed two pretty good looks.
Rockwell had one last chance, drawing a foul with 1.3 seconds left on the clock. But the first free throw caromed hard off the rim, and an intentional miss on the second freebie missed the rim. The Longhorns then ran out the final 1.3 seconds to secure the win.
"We knew they had a couple of really good shooters, so the challenge for us was to make sure we defended those two guys really well," Braman said. "And then we had to make sure we secured the rebounds after that. Our game plan was solid — get it inside, go hard, and then, when they double, kick it out to our shooters."
Altamont led most of the game, though it was close throughout. The Longhorns opened up their biggest lead early in the third quarter at 27-20 when freshman Cordale Taylor hit a 3-pointer from the wing. The shot came with 6:52 left in the third, but Rockwell answered almost immediately.
Senior guard KJ Rife went on a personal 8-0 run over the next two minutes, scoring on a driving layup and then nailing back-to-back treys to make it a 28-27 Marshals lead.
That's when Braman worked himself into two big plays. He got an offensive rebound and put it back in with a foul for a three-point play with 4:27 left in the third.
"That was a huge play for us, to stop that run," Watson said. "When teams go on runs, you've got to find a way to stop it. It was good."
After a basket by Rockwell's Brenton Stearns tied the game at 30-30, Braman struck again with a hoop and some harm. His second three-point play put the 'Horns ahead 33-30 with 3:38 left in the game.
It stayed close the rest of the way, with neither team leading by more than four points.
Hansen put Altamont ahead 52-51 with 1 of 2 from the line with 1:05 left in the game. The Marshals answered with a 17-foot jumper by Rife to make it 53-52 with 51 seconds left.
On the other end, Braman ripped away a contested pass and finished at the rim to give Altamont a 54-53 lead. Seconds later, Rockwell had two shots at tying it, but neither was especially close. Hansen's free throw provided the final margin.
"We'd like to have hit better at the line, but we got enough of them," Hansen said. "Our mindset today was just win it, nothing else. We worked hard in practice on pushing the ball and being physical."
Altamont, which made just 11 of 21 free throws, survives and advances to the second round of the 2A state tournament next week at the Sevier Valley Center. The fourth-seeded 'Horns are 12-10 on the season.
Rife and Stearns scored 15 points each for the Marshals, who end the season with a 13-8 record.
Andy Griffin is a southern Utah broadcaster and sports writer and has been involved in covering sports in Utah, including professional, college and high school sports, since 1989. Andy is the sports editor at STGNews.com.