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MHS Dragons Basketball has Big Wins Over Aberdeen, West Side; Falls to Bear Lake

Braylen Tripp, hitting the shot from the outside, put up 35 points against Soda Springs in their final home game of the season.

The Malad Dragon basketball team is surging and gathering momentum at just the right time.  In their weeks’ games, the MHS team earned a big win in the final home basketball game of the season as well as secured their spot in the 2A District 5 basketball game.  Playing basketball at a whole new level, the Dragons are proving that only they decide when their season is over.

Beginning the three game week at home, the Dragons hosted the West Side Pirates on Tuesday, February 6.  Before the team took to the court, they paused to honor the MHS senior players including Baylor Bean, Ryan Hubbard, Timothy Jensen, Ben Peterson and Braylen Tripp.  The five seniors made up the starting lineup for the Dragons as they tipped off to begin the game.

It took some time for the Dragon team to settle into their offense, finding themselves down 0-10 due to breakdowns on both ends of the court.  Undeterred by the early deficit, the team put together an 11-7 run over the last few minutes of the first quarter where the scoreboard read, 11-17.  Over the second quarter, the Dragons went to work on offense and defense to outscore the Pirates, 26-14.  

As they began making their comeback, Malad put together a string of seamless offensive possessions, moving the ball around to find the open man with ease.  Point guard Zack Richardson dribbled the ball down the court to the top of the key where he sent it into Tripp at the high post.  Pivoting to the basket, Tripp bounced the ball down to the block just as Hubbard made a baseline cut to the basket to catch the ball and put it in for an easy score.  The play worked so well, the trio hit again, scoring in what seemed like a deja vu moment.

Exploiting the Pirate weakness on the baseline once again, Tripp drove to the hoop after the pass down from Richardson to score the basket and the bonus shot to make it a three point play.  On their next trip down the floor, Carter Carey nailed a three pointer after Brady Showell battled it out under the hoop for the rebound and the kick out.  

Possession after possession, the Dragons slowly worked their way to close the gap on the scoreboard until they were just a single point away from the Pirate lead.  Bringing the ball down after snagging the rebound, Tripp connected with Hubbard on a hard pass nearly tipped by the defense.  Before the West Side defenders could hardly react, Hubbard dumped the ball into Showell for the score to take the lead as he was open on the block with the defense sealed behind him.

The Dragons lead was short lived as the Pirates hit a shot from behind the arc as their response.  But Malad just put their collective head down and continued to push on as each of their players contributed with big rebounds, perfect passes, defensive stops and scoring shots.  Their offense spread the defense out wide, opening up the middle to allow cutters, the inside drive and low block post.  Working their offense both inside and outside, the Pirates struggled to know where or how to make a stop. 

Stepping up their game in a whole different way, the Dragons came out of the second half of the game up 37-31.  When asked later about the new feel and energy of the Malad basketball team, Head Coach Zach Beutler shared, “They have really learned how to play fundamental, team basketball.”

The Pirates were hot as they came back into the second half of the game, putting up six three point shots over the eight minute period.  The Dragons worked to hold them, putting up shots to try and keep pace.  With the final seconds ticking down, Richardson worked to get open on the right wing, catching the pass from Showell in the corner, knocking down the three pointer to bring them back within one shot at the end of the quarter as the scoreboard read, 51-53.

It was an intense final quarter of the game as the lead on the scoreboard traded back and forth, never more than a two shot difference.  Determined that West Side would not pull out another last second win, left everything on the court to put themselves up 63-62 after Tripp hit a final three point shot from the deep corner off of a skip pass from Hubbard on the opposite elbow.

With 38 seconds left in the game and 28 seconds on the shot clock, the Pirates began bringing the ball down the court after calling a timeout.  Stalling to run down the clock to allow only a single shot, West Side worked the ball across the top of the key.  As the shot clock clicked down to its final seconds, the Pirates took a baseline drive to hoop, maneuvering passed the Dragon defense for what they hoped would be the game winning shot.  Bouncing the ball off the rim, Malad fought for the rebound.  Securing the ball but his momentum carrying him out of bounds, Richardson quickly threw the ball back into the key where Showell secured the ball and the Dragon victory as the final buzzer rang out, 63-62.

Aside from points, Malad led out with rebounds grabbing 34 to West Side 23.  They also tallied up 20 assists, 7 steals and 3 blocks.  They posted a stellar 46% field goal shooting, led by Hubbard with 75% shooting from the field, followed by Tripp who hit 10/14 shots (71%) for 35 points.  Richardson and Tripp led the team with 8 rebounds each with Hubbard and Peterson each bringing in another 6.

The Dragons and their fans rode the high of the last minute win until their second game of the week as they went on to play the Bear Lake Bears on Thursday, February 8.  The opening minute of the game, spent largely in Bear territory and with Dragon players getting into foul trouble early, demonstrated just how difficult the game would prove to be.  Managing to pull within one point after Cary and Peterson went back to back with big shots in the second quarter, the Dragons just couldn’t keep up,
eventually falling 38-66.

To round out the week, the Dragons traveled to Aberdeen for the play-in game to earn a spot in the district tournament.  Malad hit the ground running as they went up against the Tigers in their third matchup of the season.  Tripp came out to hit a three pointer for the first points of the game, giving them a lead that they never relinquished.  

Nearing the end of the third quarter, the Dragons put together what had to be dubbed “The Play of the Game.”  Inbounding the ball on the sideline after being fouled, Tripp passed the ball into Carey on the right wing.  Working the ball around, Carey passed out to Peterson on the opposite side of the court.  As they he did, Tripp slipped down to the corner, taking two hard steps to the basket as, simultaneously, Showell sealed his defender behind him and Peterson threw up the shot.  What looked like a poor overshot was a perfectly placed alley-oop for Tripp to slam down for the dunk.

The Malad offense consistently out-scoring the Tigers in each quarter, going 38% from the field and 73% from the free throw line to help them claim the win 55-43 and earn a place in the district tournament.  

Proud of the accomplishments and growth of his team, Coach Beutler said, “The boys work over the months and even years that we have been teaching them the fundamentals of the game are really beginning to pay out.  They have had some experiences that have proven they have what it takes to win as a team.  Their win against West Side was the first win in several seasons, bringing their record to 4-24 over the last 18 years.  That’s exciting!”

The Dragons will take on Bear Lake in game two of the tournament in Montpelier on Tuesday, February 13.  The winner of the game will advance to the semi-final game against the winner of the West Side vs Soda Springs matchup, while the losers of each game will face each other.

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