Based on the sound and energy levels in Coach Yerkovich Gymnasium at Judge Memorial High School, one would have no idea that there were a limited number of spectators present during Friday night’s 3A second-round matchup between Judge Memorial and South Sevier.
That energy was translated onto the floor and into the play of Judge’s Dom Burns, who led the Bulldogs to a 62-39 thrashing of South Sevier to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
Burns — who’d been averaging just under 31 points per game during the month of February — finished with a game-high 22 points for Judge.
Following the game, Bulldogs head coach Sanjin Kolovrat had high praises for his star player.
“(Burns) is the definition of solid and consistent,” Kolovrat said. “He gets to his spots whether you like it or not and that’s the sign of what I call a ‘next level player’. I’ve coached some great guards, and he’s up there, if not the best I’ve seen.”
Kolovrat also said Burns is one of the better players in the state despite the fact that he may not get that type of respect coming from a smaller 3A school.
“We got beat up by some big schools in our preseason, but Dom’s scoring was always consistent,” Kolovrat said.
Burns’ scoring ability was showcased right from the opening tip, as he scored 11 of Judge’s first 18 points. That was needed as South Sevier gave the Bulldogs a neck-and-neck battle through the first period.
The defensive attention that Burns commanded played a huge role in helping his teammates find their groove. After Judge struggled to hit its outside shots to start the game, Burns assisted on back to back 3-pointers midway through the second quarter, allowing Judge to go on a seemingly instant 6-0 run and claim an eight-point lead.
From that point forward, once Judge started hitting its shots from deep, the game seemed to open up for the Bulldogs on both sides of the floor.
This didn’t come as a surprise to Kolovrat and his staff.
“These guys are very offensively motivated, so when we hit a couple of shots, they tend to have more energy on defense and work harder because they’re excited to get back on offense,” Kolovrat said.
Multiple Judge players began to get involved in the game, taking the pressure off of Burns, who wasn’t required to do much more for the remainder of the contest. Jace Holmes, who thrived in the second half, was the second leading scorer for Judge with 16 points. Holmes recorded a double-double, as he added 10 rebounds.
South Sevier’s Carter Peterson, who tied a career high with 21 points, did everything he could to keep his team in the game, bas many expected, Judge came away victorious.
Despite being the perceived favorites heading into the game, Judge wasn’t lacking in motivation. In addition to it being the last game the seniors will play on their home floor, Kolovrat said the pandemic has taught his players to love and take advantage of every opportunity they have to play.
With the 23-point win, the Judge players will be granted another opportunity to hit the hardwood Thursday against the winner of Friday’s game between Manti and ALA.
Kolovrat still believes his team has a lot of work to do heading into the next round despite the blowout win.
“Our biggest weakness continues to be defense,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of youngsters that need to learn and get better defensively, so we’ll continue to really work on that.”