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High school boys basketball: Mountain Ridge earns strong win over Woods Cross in Olympus tournament opening game

SHARE High school boys basketball: Mountain Ridge earns strong win over Woods Cross in Olympus tournament opening game

Mountain Ridge’s Brantyn Van Dyke and Merrick Sherwood defend Woods Cross’ Keegan Phung during a high school basketball game in the Utah Autism Holiday Classic at Olympus High School in Holladay on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Coach Scott Briggs and the Mountain Ridge boys basketball team smiled for perhaps the first time this season.

With their schedule jeopardized initially by the coronavirus pandemic, with one game cancelled and another postponed, the Sentinels came to the Utah Autism Holiday Classic hoping to play four games in four days at Olympus High School, and so far they are on track.

In front of a small group of mostly parents and fellow players Tuesday afternoon, Jake Fitton scored 16 points and Zach Farmer and Merrick Sherwood had 14 apiece as Mountain Ridge enjoyed its best game since the school opened and walloped Woods Cross 71-46.

“We don’t have a superstar. We just had a lot of kids play to their capability,” Briggs said, trying to hide his grin through the medical mask players and coaches are required to wear when they’re off the court.”

The Sentinels had several good moments in last year’s inaugural season, but finished with an 8-16 mark and lost in the first round of the 6A state tournament. This year, with a year of experience tempered by a nagging case of coronavirus anxiety, they improved their record to 6-2 by showing some precision passing that led to easy baskets.

Mountain Ridge led the entire game, taking a 20-13 first-quarter lead and then, after Woods Cross narrowed the margin to 27-22, went on a 12-2 spurt to the end the half. Briggs said the Sentinels worked the final play of the half to perfection and the players appeared exuberant as they ran toward to the locker room.

“We had a play drawn up, but they (the Wildcats) defended it well, so we went to a third and fourth option,” Briggs said. “We showed a lot of growth on our part.”

“We lost it in the second quarter,” admitted Woods Cross coach Jeff Jorgensen, whose squad came in on a seven-game win streak. “We didn’t play team ball. We were a group of individuals.”

The Sentinels continued to control the game, and eventually built the margin to 27 points. As the third-quarter closed, their final-play offense again fared well. They held the ball for the last 30 seconds, passing the ball around the perimeter against the Wildcats’ man-to-man defense, and avoided any risky ventures. Finally, with 8.6 seconds left, Sherwood penetrated and fed Brennan Smith, who was running toward the hoop, and the pass and shot went perfectly.

The teams went to their benches in opposite moods for the one-minute break and the Wildcats were late returning to the court and almost lost possession. Still frustrated, they missed a three-point attempt and the Sentinels’ Kyle Carley and Michael Okello earned layups on consecutive possessions to add salt to the wound.

Keegan Phung topped the Wildcats (7-3) with 14 points. Jaxon Smith and Alex Earl had 10 each.