On the heels of a loss Tuesday night to Viewmont, Woods Cross welcomed in region-leading Bonneville for a showdown that the Wildcats approached as a potentially “season-altering” game. 

With a final score of 56-48, Woods Cross handed the Lakers their third overall loss of the season and first region defeat. Thanks to a strong performance from Mason Bendinger (24 points), the Wildcats were able to alter the complexion of Region 5 and bounce back from their tough loss to the Vikings.

“Before the game, I said (to the team) that this is the biggest game up to this point in the season,” Woods Cross coach Josh Margetts said. “I’m super proud of how they came out and delivered the punches.”

Leading by just one point heading into the final quarter of play, the Wildcats leaned on Bendinger, who scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the quarter. Woods Cross outscored Bonneville 20-13 over the final eight minutes of play, allowing them to get what ended up being a relatively comfortable win in the game’s closing seconds.  

Margetts said Bendinger got more and more aggressive as the game went on, paving the way for his success late in the game. 

“I challenged him at halftime, looked right at him and said, ‘Are you going to quit fading away and let them dictate how you play, or are you going to go strong and dominate like we know you can,’” Margetts said. 

The 6-foot-3 junior responded well to the challenge, to say the least, as he was the only Wildcat who hit a field goal in the final eight minutes of play and scored Wood Cross’ first eight points in the final quarter.

“Saying that stuff to him in front of the team really gets him going,” Margetts said. “He knows he has a lot of responsibility and he knows the load he carries on his shoulders. Calling him out really gets him going and he responds to every challenge I give him.”

The rest of the Wildcats chipped in from the free-throw line, where the team went 12 for 16 in the fourth quarter. Senior Zach Delange was Wood Cross’ second-leading scorer with 15 points. 

While the Wildcats delivered at the free-throw line throughout the night (19 for 26, 73%), Bonneville did not. The Lakers shot 42% (8 for 19) from the free-throw line — a stat differential that quite simply cost Bonneville the game. 

Despite their free-throw struggles, the Lakers, led by senior Carson Jones (team-high 16 points), executed their offense well on many possessions, but were stifled by Woods Cross on the possessions that really counted.

“Being able to defend them for long periods of time (was the key),” Margetts said. “Bonneville executes, they don’t care if it takes 45 seconds or 15 seconds, they execute their stuff and don’t make a lot of mistakes. So being able to defend for extended amounts of time was big for us in this game.”

“Before the game, I said (to the team) that this is the biggest game up to this point in the season. I’m super proud of how they came out and delivered the punches.” — Woods Cross coach Josh Margetts

Following one quarter of play, the game looked like it would be an absolute slugfest, as Woods Cross held just a 7-3 lead, but each team began to find their offense as the game rolled on. 

Regardless of how many points they ended up scoring in the game, Margetts and the Wildcats didn’t care as long as they ended up with more as the final buzzer sounded. 

The win moved Woods Cross to 10-6 on the season (3-1 in region), while the Lakers fell to 13-3 (4-1 in region). But most importantly, the win kept the Wildcats’ goal of winning a region title alive as region play approaches the halfway mark. 

“We did not want to be two games back on these guys,” Margetts said of Bonneville. “We didn’t know if they were going to lose again if we didn’t win tonight, so we reminded the team of our goals and we knew we had to go get (the win) if we’re going to get to where we want to be.”