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4A boys basketball: Seljaas hits last-second shot to lift Braves past Spartans (+video)

OGDEN — David was on the verge of knocking down that gigantic guy they call Goliath once again.

Indeed, the undersized but spunky Spartans from Murray High had fearlessly risen up and were just seconds away from slaying the big, bad basketball giant that towered over them.

But then in an instant, Goliath refused to buckle and again stood tall. And, with one swift shot, the big fella stuck a dagger in the little guy's heart and struck down the Spartans.

This time, Goliath came in the form of Bountiful's Zac Seljaas, a gifted 6-foot-7 senior guard who buried a dramatic, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to boost the Braves to a pulse-pounding 58-56 victory in Tuesday's first-round clash of the 4A state tournament at Weber State's Dee Events Center.

"I just shot it," Seljaas said after the tense storybook finish. "It didn't go exactly how we executed it; it kind of went the opposite of that. It was supposed to go to the corner, but it ended up going to Collin (Parrish) and Collin just found me and I hit it. I just knew I was gonna make it and it went in."

"Great players make great plays," Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell said with a shrug after his team dodged a bullet the size of a cannonball to grab its 16th straight win and advance into Thursday's 4A quarterfinals. "As a coach, you just try to get him the ball and stay out of his way.

“Just get it to Zac. That’s all that goes through my head. Find a way to get him open and see if he can make a play because he’s been doing it all year. He’s been making plays, making plays, and I have all the confidence in the world in him. He makes you look good when you can get him the ball and get out of the way.”

"Zac's money," Maxwell said. "He's a heck of a player."

Until Seljaas' ultra-clutch shot, it appeared Murray might pull one of the biggest state tournament upsets in recent memory.

The slick-shooting Spartans jumped out to an early lead and repeatedly repelled every Bountiful comeback bid. And when Murray moved ahead by 13 points, 50-37, at the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter, it looked like the defending 4A champion Braves (19-6) were reeling on the ropes.

But never fear, Seljaas was here.

"We can never worry too soon," he said. "We just have to keep playing it out. These are the last games and we've just got to play to the very end."

And just as he did last year in helping lead the Braves to the 4A championship — including another narrow one-point win over Orem in the title game — Seljaas stepped up big-time down the stretch.

After Murray seemed on the verge of pulling away, he scored six points in a 9-0 run that got his team back within striking distance. Seljaas wound up pouring in 17 of his game-high 30 points in the final period, and he had 16 of their last 20.

"It's a team thing, we've got to go as a team," Seljaas said. "But I just had the openings so I just took it."

His teammate, fellow senior big man Jeff Pollard, scored the Braves' other four points over the final five minutes, including a couple of key free throws that made it a one-point game, 54-53, with 1:08 remaining.

Seljaas then drove hard to the basket to finally put Bountiful ahead for the first time, 55-54 with 30 seconds left, but Murray refused to fold.

The Spartans ran the clock down, and Aubrey Hodges hit a pull-up jumper with 4.8 seconds left to put Murray back on top 56-55.

Goliath's knees were wobbling, but the big guy wouldn't go down.

After Hodges' shot, Bountiful's first attempt to in-bound the ball was knocked out of bounds at midcourt. The Braves retained possession, but now only 2.5 seconds remained on the clock.

But after a Bountiful timeout, Collin Parrish whipped a pass to Seljaas on the right wing, and the Braves' go-to guy did what he does best — rise up and bury a decisive dagger at the buzzer.

Pollard finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for Region 6 champion Bountiful.

For Murray, James Walljasper scored 16 points before fouling out in the final minute, while Hodges had 14, with Lual Arok and Zach Dickerson chipping in with eight points apiece for the Spartans, who only trailed twice in the entire game.

EMAIL: rhollis@desnews.com