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High school boys basketball: Taylorsville speeds up tempo, pulls away from American Fork for 6A victory

Taylorsville outscored defending 6A champ American Fork in each of the final three quarters for its first playoff win in two-plus decades

Taylorsville’s Cameron Millican goes around American Fork’s Isaac Rutter for a shot as the two teams play in the first round of the High School State playoffs at Taylorsville on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Taylorsville won 67-52.
Taylorsville’s Cameron Millican goes around American Fork’s Isaac Rutter for a shot as the two teams play in the first round of the High School State playoffs at Taylorsville on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Taylorsville won 67-52.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

TAYLORSVILLE — Through one quarter in Wednesday’s 6A first round game, Taylorsville coach Bernie Graziano just didn’t like what he was seeing.

His team only trailed American Fork by three points, but everything about the tempo and the way the game was unfolding favored the visitors. The Warriors prefer an up-tempo style, so in an effort to speed the game up Graziano ditched the 2-3 zone after the first quarter for a man defense.

It had the exact effect Graziano was hoping for.

Taylorsville was very active defensively over the final three quarters, converting deflections and steals into transition buckets as it outscored defending champion American Fork in each of the final three quarters on its way to the 67-52 victory.

“I’m so happy for those kids, I told them I was so happy for them I could cry,” said Graziano, who talked about legacy with his players before the game.

Graziano isn’t sure the last time Taylorsville won a playoff game, but he knows it’s been at least 20 years.

“That was one of the motivations before the game, ‘Hey, what’s your legacy going to be, I think you can do it,” he said.

If that wasn’t motivation enough, Taylorsville’s Cameron Millican said he heard some chatter in the stands from the visitors.

“Before the game some of the fans were saying we’re the worst region in basketball, that’s just more fuel for us to go compete and win,” said Millican, who led all scorers with 20 points.

Taylorsville lost to American Fork in the preseason by nine points, and the first quarter was the culprit as the Warriors trailed 17-9 after the first quarter. Graziano didn’t want to the lose the game in the first quarter again, which is why he had his team play the safer 2-3 zone to start the game.

“I was so worried about dribble penetration cause they are pretty quick and they run that cutter offense and then they go do the ball screen offense out of the cutter, and they shoot it well, so we tried to extend our 2-3,” said Graziano.

The zone was effective in that it kept the game close, but it wasn’t until Taylorsville started playing its preferred style that it took over.

The Warriors closed the half on a 7-2 run to take a 28-24 lead and then stretched it to 41-31 heading into the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Eric Giang to start the fourth helped push the lead to 46-31, but the Cavemen weren’t about to bow out that easily.

Over the next two minutes their pressure defense forced a couple turnovers, sparking a 9-0 run that whittled the deficit to 46-40 with 4:37 remaining.

Over the next two minutes, however, American Fork’s offense went scoreless, and Taylorsville proceeded to pull away from the free throw line, finishing the game making 18 of 19.

Giang made 8 of 8 in the fourth quarter, finishing with 15 points while James Gavin added 14.

With the win Taylorsville advances to Friday’s second round and travel to No. 1 seed Davis.