Leading up to the weeks’ games, Coach Zach Beutler told his Dragon basketball team, “There’s a difference between working hard and competing. Competing goes beyond hard work. It’s working with a desire and purpose.” This thought played an important role in the boys’ attitudes as they faced conference opponents over the week.
First, the Malad basketball team hosted the West Side Pirates in their first game of the season. Defense dominated the game as it began, both teams waiting and working for scoring opportunities. Malad found its first chance to put points on the scoreboard when Braylin Tripp worked a bounce pass into Ryan Hubbard on the block. Hubbard took one dribble and then went up to bank the ball in, getting fouled on the shot to make it a three point play for Malad. The Dragon offense worked its way to take a small lead over the Pirates until they tied it up at 11 points with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Pirates slowly worked to take and grow their lead over Malad as the second quarter progressed. Try as they might, the Dragons struggled to get their shots to fall despite opportunities at their hoop. Despite the offensive challenges they were facing, the team played with high intensity and energy, staying in the game with their aggressive defense. Going into half time, the Dragons trailed, 15-22.
Unfortunately, the third quarter began where the second quarter ended- Malad struggling to connect with the basket while West Side widening the gap. Even as it seemed that the Pirates would run away with the game, Malad dug deep to swing the momentum in their favor to not only stop the West Side offense but to also gain significant ground on their 15 point lead.
With two and a half minutes left in the third quarter, the Dragons inbounded the ball after West Side scored off of two more free throws. In an attempt to beat the Pirate defense from setting up into their full court press, Malad quickly worked the ball down the court. Zack Richardson crossed into Dragon territory and saw Baylor Bean open on the corner of the key and sent the ball in. Bean took a jab down the lane before crossing over and taking a dribble towards the free throw line where he took a quick jump shot for two points.
The Pirates began bringing the ball down the court when the Malad defense made a big stop, anticipating the oncoming pass to steal the ball and return to their end of the floor. West Side managed to knock the ball out of bounds as they caught up to Dragons. Set to inbound the ball from under the hoop, Richardson wound his way around the key, getting open just outside the arc. Tripp found his open teammate, passing the ball in over the defense when Richardson put up the shot to sink a three pointer for Malad.
Feeling the surge of energy, the Dragons went on to stop another scoring attempt by West Side. Back under their own hoop, Tripp went in for the shot, missing but sent to the free throw line where he put two in to cut the Pirate lead in half. Hubbard came in with a crucial defensive rebound to take away any second chances on the next West Side possession. Austin Jacobsen did the same at the other end of the court, snagging the next rebound for the Dragons and getting fouled as he went up for a put back. From the free throw line, Jacobson dropped both shots in. Tripp ended the quarter by adding one more point to their unanswered 10 point gain on the Pirates.
The Dragons didn’t let up as the fourth quarter began, frustrating the West Side offense all the while besting their defense. Jaden Ward brought the score to within three points with a fast break ending in a layup over the Pirate defense.
Both teams were becoming even more intense and aggressive as they competed for the ball up and down the court. Such aggressiveness translated into bonus shots at the free throw line as the time wore on. Recognizing that the Pirates were scoring very few of these free throws, Coach Beutler instructed his team to foul, hoping that this would give his players more opportunities to rebound or steal the ball to convert into scoring opportunities.
Despite their most earnest efforts, Malad just couldn’t get their shots to fall as they executed their offense. West Side managed to make their final few free throws to increase their lead and secure their win, Dragons falling 36-45.
When discussing the game, Coach Beutler shared, “It was a much closer game than the final score showed. Had we not tried fouling them, we probably would have ended only about 5 points behind.” Over the last quarter, the Pirates had only one scoring opportunity outside of their free throw shots, proving how the Malad defense really stepped up to keep West Side from adding to the scoreboard.
Having a solid defense has been a high priority for Coach Beutler and his team. With such athleticism and length, Malad’s coach has worked to build a strong man to man defense that specializes not only in aggressive individual player assignments but also in help defense as well. “Every player has his assignment and on top of that, he has an assignment to have someone’s back.” This style of defense has led to big stops, protecting the lane from opponents driving in and keeping screens from being useful.
It will be an exciting season as the Dragon team continues to refine their defense and find scoring opportunities as they execute their offense, coupled with their desire to compete.