In so many games in the 2018-19 season, the Maple Mountain boys basketball team proved they can compete with opponents, only to see things slip away from them down the stretch.
Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, they couldn’t rewrite the script in Tuesday’s 5A first round battle at the Dee Events Center against Region 7-champ Jordan.
Maple Mountain played a tremendous game, leading for long periods of time and believing they had what it took to upset the Beetdiggers. The Golden Eagles pushed the game to overtime, but a late turnover and foul gave Jordan the final free throw it needed to escape with the 56-55 win.
“These kind of games are tough to swallow,” Maple Mountain head coach Johnny Averett said. “But it kind of exemplifies our season. We played in a lot of close games that we just couldn’t find ways to win.”
He said he was proud of how his Golden Eagles battled throughout the game, even though the Beetdiggers had a bigger, more athletic team.
“Credit to Jordan because they made plays down the stretch,” Averett said. “We had our chances.”
The game came down to the final seconds of overtime with the score tied at 55-55.
Maple Mountain had the ball and was holding it for the last shot, but Beetdigger guard Nathan Maiava stepped in front of a Golden Eagle pass and stole it away.
“We might have started to run that play a little early,” Averett said. “It was a little mistake that turned into a big loss.”
Maiava then raced the length of the court with time running out, only to be awarded a foul with just 0.5 seconds on the clock. He missed the first free throw but made the second, putting Jordan in front.
Maple Mountain tried a desperation heave to get a miraculous game-winning tip but couldn’t get a hand on the ball and the Beetdiggers got the win.
Jordan appeared to have the game in hand when it had a 7-point lead late in the fourth quarter, but the Golden Eagles got four straight free throws from junior guard Logan Green, stole a Beetdigger pass and tied the game with a 3-pointer from junior guard Todd Williams.
Jordan chose to stall for the final few minutes, playing for the last shot. It got a pretty good look for guard Dyson Koehler — the leading scorer in the game with 27 points — but it came up short and the two teams headed for the extra period.
Maple Mountain started the game strong and led by as many as 11 points late in the first half but the Beetdiggers took advantage of their size to rally and go in front.
“We made a lot of plays,” Averett said. “I thought in the first half we executed well and hit shots. Jordan played great in the third and we didn’t respond well.”
The Golden Eagles were led by 13 points from sophomore guard Tyler Nelson, while Green had 12 and junior forward Braxton Tanner added 11 points.
Averett said his message to his team after the loss was that this is something it can build on.
“We have a lot of young players,” Averett said. “They got valuable experience and hopefully they learn from these close finishes. Hopefully they learn to execute to win those games instead of losing them.”
Looking back on the year, he said he was pleased with how his guys rallied when they had to.
“When our backs were against the wall, they responded,” Averett said. “None of the kids have been here, so there is tremendous upside.”
Jordan advanced to Thursday’s 5A quarterfinals at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, where the Beetdiggers will play Murray at 4:10 p.m.