EAGLE MOUNTAIN — The first playoff game in Cedar Valley boys basketball history came on Tuesday, and with it a little extra motivation for a team that has acquitted itself nicely as a first-year program.
So how relevant did that extra motivation prove?
The evidence was apparent throughout, with a big start leaving little doubt to the outcome, which was a 70-47 win over visiting Ogden.
As for the start, it couldn’t have been scripted much better.
Fueled by tenacious defense and superior ball movement, the Aviators set out to a 15-2 lead midway through the first quarter. That lead ballooned to 22-6 after one quarter and 42-14 at the half.
“That’s probably the best half of basketball we’ve played all year,” said Cedar Valley coach Blake Pugmire.
Playing central to Cedar Valley’s initial run was the play of Will Ensley inside, with the senior operating the post effectively for six of his team’s first nine points scored. Ensley finished with the team-high 15 points, but was hardly the only contributor.
For the game, Ensley was joined by Declan Whitmarsh and Carlos Monroy, who each contributed 13 points, and by Colton Smith, who added 11.
“I think with us being a brand-new school that kids were excited to play a playoff game, but yeah, offensively we came out on fire,” Pugmire said. “... We’ve harped on them all season to make the defense work and to be patient, rather than force things. ... I was very pleased with how we shared the ball.”
Also key was defending Ogden’s DJ Frye effectively. Sure, Frye ended the game with 18 points scored, but for large stretches, particularly in the first half, the Aviators locked down effectively on the Tigers’ best player.
“He’s an animal and someone you have to continually keep on eye on,” Pugmire said. “We’ve played him three times now, so yeah, we know how good of a player he is and how dangerous he is.”
Indeed, it was Cedar Valley’s third win over Ogden this season, due to the schools both residing in Region 10.
With that familiarity comes the knowledge that Ogden is better than it perhaps showed in the first half, with the Tigers proving as much in the second half’s opening minutes. An 8-0 run out of the gate and a barrage of 3-pointers in the early fourth quarter saw Cedar Valley’s lead shrink to 57-41 before Pugmire’s team regathered itself and finished out strong.
“I thought we came out a little soft and I think we laid off the gas a bit, and you can’t do that when you’re playing a good team. So I’m a little disappointed with that,” Pugmire said.
But all things considered, Pugmire left the court satisfied with what his team did on Tuesday, and throughout the entire season.
“I’ve been pleased with the kids. They’ve bought in and done everything we’ve asked,” Pugmire said. “We’ve had our growing pains ... but it’s been really gratifying and I’m proud of our boys, and our staff, and it’s great for our school.”
With the win, Cedar Valley advances to the second round of the playoffs where it will travel to take on Ridgeline on Friday.