Prior to the contest Wednesday night between South Sevier and Emery, the Rams were tied with Richfield for first place in the Region 15 standings. The Spartans were sitting in fourth and desperately needed a win to keep their region title hopes alive.
Both teams struggled offensively to begin the game. The Rams’ extended 2-3 defense caused problems for the Spartans at different junctions in the match.
Cade Brazier came off the bench early in the opening quarter and immediately hit his first two three-pointers. Emery gained an 8-1 advantage until Tyson Chisholm answered back with two three-pointers of his own. The Rams ended the quarter on an 11-0 run and go up 12-8.
Brazier hit another three to start an exciting second quarter. Brax Jensen hit a three to tie the game at 14 as each team began trading blows. Kaetz King then hit a three only to have Kyson Stilson immediately answer back and tie it up with a three for the Spartans. The Rams went down and added two to their point total but then Brodie Tuttle hit a three to regain the lead, 20-19. Brazier rattled off 14 points in the first half to help Emery go into the midway point up 29-26.
Brazier began where he left off and hit another three to start the second half. Turnovers plagued the Spartans in the beginning minutes of the quarter, which allowed the Rams to tie the game at 32. When his team needed him, Brazier was there again to answer the bell. He hit a three to put the Spartans up and King answered back with a three for the Rams. Brazier hit another three and showed that the Spartans were not to be intimidated by the number one team. Emery went on a tear with a 10-0 run in the final minutes of the period to increase their lead to 50-40 with one quarter left to play.
A few minutes into the final quarter, Brazier had another big play. He was fouled shooting a three-pointer that ripped through the net as it went in. He completed the four-point play after the free throw and put the Spartans up 57-44. South Sevier would not go away, however. With 2:02 remaining, they hit a three and cut the lead to seven, 58-51. Then, it became a five-point game, 60-55, with 1:01 left to play. With 24 seconds left, it was a one-score game with Emery up 62-59. Brax Jensen made two clutch free throws to seal the game and give the Spartans the much-needed win, 64-59.
It was truly a team win as everyone contributed. Rance Jensen and Kyler Wilstead each made important hustle plays to help Emery that will not appear on the stat sheet. Wilstead did lead the team with 10 rebounds. The Spartans have to be encouraged to see a more comfortable Brazier.
“I am feeling a lot more comfortable. I’m starting to see the version of myself I was before,” said Brazier. “It’s nice to have more explosiveness, I am still working on it, going to physical therapy.” He led all scorers with 27 points, including eight threes.
Stilson struggled to get going early but found his groove and added 18 points. Jensen had another good night, facilitating the offense with seven assists.
Stilson played good defense, guarding King, who struggled from the floor, shooting 33% from the field. He still led the Rams in scoring with 24 points while Brandt Williams added 15 points for South Sevier. The Spartans held the Rams to 34% shooting on the night. Meanwhile, Emery shot 51% from the field and 41% from the three-point line.
“On Monday and on Tuesday, we focused mainly on defense. It made us push harder in this game,” continued Brazier. “If we get after it on D, it shows more on offense. We get that confidence on offense.”
The Spartans’ good night continued after their important victory when they received word that Manti beat Richfield on the Wildcats’ home floor. It did not stop there, though. San Juan missed an opportunity to tie the game with a three at the end of regulation as Grand upset the Broncos. As a result, Region 15 became more cluttered as the teams continue to beat each other up. Richfield and South Sevier remain on top of the region rankings at 5-2. Emery and Manti are one game behind the leaders at 4-3 as San Juan fell to 3-3. Manti will host San Juan on Friday while South Sevier is off for the rest of the week.
Emery (12-4, 4-3 Region 15) has another huge game on Friday when they travel to Richfield (10-6, 5-2 Region 15) in hopes of keeping their region title chances alive. Richfield, previously the winner of nine straight, have now lost two games in a row. The Spartans fell by four against the Wildcats earlier in the year and hope to benefit from more healthy Brazier.
“We know its going to be tough, it’s tough playing there. [They have] a really tough defense and they are one of the more physical teams in the region,” concluded Brazier. “Richfield has lots of people that can penetrate the basket, so we need to stop them. Then, they have a couple of shooters that we need to lock down. If we can do that, we will be in good shape.”