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Idaho Enterprise

Dragons fall to American Falls in a nail-biter

Ben Peterson fights for the shot.

The Dragon basketball team had two games in their sites for the week only to have it pared down to one.  Set to host Aberdeen on Friday, January 12, the game was postponed to Tuesday, January 23, because of the winter storm blowing across eastern Idaho.  With the storm quieted and the roads clear, the American Falls Beavers made their way to Malad Saturday, January 13 for their second matchup of the season.

Zack Richardson started off the scoring for Malad, swishing a three pointer through the net on the Dragon’s very first possession of the game.  Ryan Hubbard followed as he hit one of two free throws after getting fouled on the block following a perfect bounce pass around the defense from Braylen Tripp.  Richardson hit another three pointer off of a deep skip pass from Carter Carey in the opposite corner to put Malad up 7-0 in just over the first minute of the game.

Getting settled in their offense, the Beavers answered back with a move to the basket and two points from the block.  But they couldn’t shut down sophomore Richardson at the three as he turned around to hit another shot from behind the arc on the left wing to go up 10-2.

While Malad’s offense dominated the opening of the game, their defense stepped to dominate the latter end of the quarter.  Their tough pressure made it a challenge for American Falls to get any sort of shot off, causing turnovers due to shot clock violations, a pattern that continued throughout the game.  Despite their great defense, the Beavers were able to whittle away their lead as the first quarter closed out with a score of 13-12 after Ben Peterson put up a final drive with only seconds left on the clock.

Peterson was first to score again in the second quarter as he drove into the key as the Dragons executed an inbounds play from the baseline after a Beaver foul.  Bradey Showell added two more points for Malad as he came in for the weak side rebound.  On the following possession, Richardson hit another three pointer, this time from the right wing, after Carey passed the ball backwards to him as he was falling down in an attempt to avoid traveling.  The well placed and highly lucky pass found Richardson open and ready for the shot.  Showell found himself at the free throw line against shooting bonus shots after getting fouled on a baseline drive, adding two points to bring the score to 22-15.  

Back in the game after briefly being subbed out, Tripp worked the ball around inside the key to put up a turnaround jumper from the front of the rim to put up another Dragon two points only to add three more as he hit the shot from the deep right corner off a quick pass from Peterson.  As they took the ball down the court after another defensive win as they forced American falls to commit a shot clock violation, Carey hit a jumper from the corner of the key as their shot clock wound down to two seconds.  Working the ball around on their next possession, Carey found himself open on the block as the Beavers overplayed the guards connecting with a pass from the top of the key, Tripp passed the ball in for Carey to lay the ball in for another two points for the Dragons before the half ended 31-21.

After what must have been an inspiring half time speech, the Beavers came out firing on all cylinders, putting up a more intense and focused offense and defense to close the gap on the scoreboard and eventually take the lead midway through the third quarter.  Malad’s defense did well to minimize shooting opportunities for American Falls as they intercepted passes, forced turnovers and hit the boards rebounding.  Offensively, they struggled to connect with the hoop scoring only a few points over the quarter as they stepped up at the free throw line.  Richardson tied the game up again as he stole the ball and ran the court to put it in for the lay up with seven seconds left, ending the quarter 38-38.

Over the fourth quarter, the two teams battled it out, going neck and neck on the court and on the scoreboard.  Both teams brought great hustle, intensity and urgency to the game.  The defense was the name of the game over the fourth quarter as the ball made trips up and down the court without ever being scored.  

Just as Malad would be in position to take over on the scoreboard the Beavers would hit another crucial shot to extend their lead by just a few more points.  With just two points to go, Peterson put up a scoring drive to the basket to bring them to within one point, 51-52.  On their next two possessions, the Beavers nailed two big shots to expand their lead by four points with just a minute to spare.

After pausing for a timeout to slow the momentum, Malad came out with a scoring play to narrow the gap to just one shot.  Looking to foul in hopes of getting a quick opportunity for a steal or to put the ball in the offense’s hands, the Beavers went to the foul line several times as the final minute played out.  Hitting a number of their bonus shots, American Falls kept their margin to win the game, 53-58.

Regardless of the final score, Coach Zach Beutler was pleased with the way his team played throughout the night, saying, “It was the most complete game the guys have played since the first couple weeks of the season. We have everyone back from injuries and sickness. Other than a handful of breakdowns on each end we executed very well.”

Speaking of their tough opponent, Coach Beutler shared, “American Falls shot 65% from beyond the arch with most of them at 30+ feet from the hoop with a hand in their face. It’s really tough to defend when a team can stretch the floor like that.”

 The Dragons look to have a big week as they move into their first games against district opponents as they host both Soda Springs on Wednesday, January 17 and Bear Lake on Friday, January 19. 

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