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Dragons Boys Basketball Season Ends After District Losses

Malad's defense works to stop Soda Springs at the top of the key.

With the 2A District 5 basketball tournament lasting only ten days, the Malad Dragon’s postseason games have ended just as quickly as they began.  In the four team, double elimination tournament, the MHS team went up against Bear Lake and Soda Springs and was unable to skate passed either team, ending their 2023-2024 season.

The Dragons began their district tournament venture taking on the number one seed, the Bear Lake Bears on Tuesday, February 13.  They had a rocky start to the game as it seemed everything bounced the wrong way.  Between Bear Lake’s fast paced offense moving up and down the court, a series of fouls on key players, and the ball always rolling out of bounds off of them, it wasn’t until late in the first quarter that the Dragons finally put points on the scoreboard.

With the kinks worked out, Malad jumped into the second quarter ready to play basketball, creating many more offensive opportunities as well as defensive stops, outscoring the Bears 10-8.  Ben Peterson began the second quarter scoring after Braylen Tripp brought the ball down the court off of a fast defensive rebound transition, passing out to Ryan Hubbard for a quick give and go.  Stopping at the left block, Tripp went up for the shot bus passed across to Peterson on the opposite block instead.

On their next possession down the court, Tripp found Zack Richardson open at the left elbow of the free throw line.  After getting the pass, Richardson sent it on to meet Hubbard coming in from the corner for the baseline reverse lay up, hesitating first for the defense to blow past.  Despite their solid second quarter, the Dragons couldn’t make up for the previous deficit, going into
halftime 12-21.

Bear Lake came out in the third quarter to hit shots on three back to back possessions to quickly put them up 12-28.  Malad’s defense quickly slowed their roll as they forced turnovers and grabbed steals to keep the Bears from setting up any offense.  Playing a key part in the defensive stops, Peterson easily anticipated the ball movements, picking off the passes and sending the ball down court.  Grabbing his third steal in nearly as many Bear Lake possessions, Peterson sent the ball down court after finding Hubbard open on the sideline.  Baylor Bean, filling the opposite lane, caught the pass from Hubbard under the basket for the quick shot but bounced it off the rim.  Hot on his heels, Tripp grabbed the rebound just inches from the hoop and dunked it back in, all in one seamless motion.

Even with such tough defense, the Dragons were unable to keep the Bears as they continued to pull away on the scoreboard, falling 33-54.  Hubbard led in stats for the Dragons as he had 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.  Peterson also put up stats across the board with 3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block.  Richardson led with points, tallying up 15 throughout the game. 

Losing in their opening district game, Malad was next pitted against the Soda Springs Cardinals after their loss against West Side in game three of the tournament.  The game started in a much better fashion for the Dragons as they scored the first basket of the game after Richardson maneuvered around the defense in the key for the lay in.  But Soda Springs was quick to answer and the two teams battled out the first quarter to end it 15-17.  Relentlessly playing through the second half, Malad managed to take the lead just before the quarter ended on a baseline drive by Tripp to make it 34-33.

Throughout the third quarter of the game, the lead traded back and forth and again and again as both teams worked the ball up and down the court.  Hubbard connected with the basket a number of times from the inside as he cut and drove to the hoop.  Peterson had some crucial rebounds to put back in as second chance scores for Malad.  Richardson found a little magic in the deep corner, hitting the three after Peterson dished out on the drive.  Getting fouled on attempted shots, Tripp went to the line to hit bonus shots for the Dragons as well.

But on the other end of the court, the Soda Spring offense found even greater success as they put up scoring shots for the Cardinals.  Putting up 22 points over the quarter, Soda Springs eventually regained their lead, ending the third quarter 55-50.

Over the last eight minutes of the game, the Dragons brought the score back within a single shot several times, but were never able to take the lead again, trailing as the final buzzer rang out, 60-72.  Tripp posted a double double for the game, grabbing 10 rebounds and putting up 19 points.  He also added 8 assists on offense, as well as 1 block and 1 steal on defense.  Hubbard grabbed another 7 rebounds, with Richardson bringing 6 more for Malad.  The passing game played a crucial part of the Dragons offense as they totalled 19 assists as a team with Carter Carey and Richardson responsible for 4 each.

With their second loss in the tournament, the Dragons were eliminated and their basketball season came to a close.  Head Coach Zach Beutler commented on their district tournament games as he said, “We made adjustments in practice as we prepared for Bear Lake but we still committed several unforced turnovers in that game that made a real difference.  Against Soda Springs,  we had some untimely defensive breakdowns and when we were solid Soda hit contested shots.  Brady Showell had a health scare on Monday last week and was not cleared to participate in practice or games all week. That hurt big time!   We saw some great growth in our team over the season and we are pleased with all that they did accomplish this season even though it ended sooner than we had hoped.”

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