Bulldogs finish week strong
with second-half burst
to beat Duchesne, 48-38
By Ben Lasseter
GUNNISON—Sometimes in a low-scoring basketball game, a team just needs a spark, especially going into halftime, to find momentum and establish control. This was the story of Gunnison Valley boys’ basketball team’s 48-38 win at home against Duchesne on Friday.
The Bulldogs were trailing 14-16 late in the second quarter against the Eagles, which won the teams’ last matchup 53-48 on Wednesday, Jan. 13. In the final minutes of the quarter, though, Bulldog seniors Janzen Keisel and Harley Hill found weak spots near the basket and gave their team six quick points to enter halftime with a 20-18 lead.
“The first quarter was a little slow, just feeling each other out. Usually we just have to have one guy get hot, whether it be Janzen, Creed [Mogle] or Harley,” said Bulldog Coach Ben Hill. On this night, it was primarily Keisel, who scored 20 points.
After an elongated halftime that included a hall of fame induction ceremony, the home team came out hot and left Duchesne in the dust.
Hill said with Duchesne in a zone defense, it was trickier to get the ball to open spots at first. They came out of halftime with a more patient, disciplined attack to beat it. Players were in near-constant motion and threw cross-court passes. This got sophomore guard Jon Willden and senior guard Creed Mogle open for 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to open the third quarter.
Senior guard Zach Stewart got involved in this second-half push with an offensive rebound and a put-back layup that cemented the course of the game for good. Not only did it put the team up 29-22; it was a statement that the Bulldogs were the more physical team.
The third quarter was one of Gunnison Valley’s strongest of the season, scoring from all areas of the floor and tightening its defense even further than before in the game to outscore Duchesne 18-7.
The Eagles did what they could to stay in the game. They ran a full-court press defense, attacked the ball more aggressively to try to draw steals and hustled everywhere on the court.
But the challenge of overcoming the 38-25 deficit in the third quarter was too great, in part because Gunnison Valley was still playing harder, despite the big lead.
The Bulldogs’ relentless intensity showed in Mogle diving headfirst to the floor for a loose ball late in the game, Hill and Keisel scrapping for rebounds and the tired Duchesne defense having to foul profusely in order to keep up. And the home crowd expressed on numerous occasions that they believed the referees should have called even more fouls against Duchesne than they did.
With Friday’s win, following a 75-66 loss at North Sevier (5-13, 2-6 in region play) on Wednesday, Gunnison Valley improved to 9-8 and 4-4 in region play and is tied with Altamont for third in 2A Region 16. Duchesne, still No. 1 in the division, evened its record to 9-9, 6-3 in the region.
In the last week of the regular season now, Hill said his team was “healthy” and “playing good.” The team needs to win both of its games this week to overtake North Summit at the No. 2 spot in the region and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“It’s gotta start on the defensive end,” Hill said. “We have to slow teams down. I’m not worried about us scoring.”
Wednesday night against North Summit (9-6, 5-3 region) is senior night. Hill said in the teams’ last game, which the Braves won 71-60, his defense did not come out with the energy level they will need to bring this time.
However, he said he was “quite pleased” with the first game against Altamont (9-6, 4-4 region), which the Bulldogs won 55-28, and simply wants to emulate that effort in the away game Thursday, the final regular-season game of the season.
If they win both of this week’s games, Gunnison Valley will have a bye in what is considered the first of two “play-in” rounds of the playoffs. Those are scheduled to take place on Feb. 17 and 19. After two win-or-go-home play-in rounds, the eight remaining teams will battle for the state tournament from Feb. 22-24.
“It’s just an exciting time,” Hill said on entering the postseason. “It’s fun to see kids win.”