Rasmussen Delivers in the Clutch


Stock Photo Courtesy of Dusty Butler

It was a packed house inside the Spartan Center when the Wildcats came to town. The old Emery-Richfield rivalry makes every meeting intense, but there was something special on Wednesday night. Maybe it was the fact that Richfield came in ranked #2 in 3A while Emery was close behind at #3. Or, it could have been the fact that both teams only had one region loss before the game, Emery’s coming to Richfield by one point a few weeks before. Whatever the case may have been, those in attendance were about to see a show.

Emery took early control of the game, but Richfield was never too far away. Brett Rasmussen scored six first-quarter points and was all over the boards. The Wildcats began answering back, and tied it up at 15 to close off the opening period. The Spartans shot the ball extremely well in the first half, converting on 13-25 (52%) of their opportunities. What really kept Richfield within striking distance was the 11 Emery turnovers in the first half. That kept it close as Emery took a 31-26 lead into half.

Out of the break, it was all Richfield. The Wildcats were finally able to string some shots together, while Emery looked lost on the offensive end. That resulted in a 19-9 period in favor of the Wildcats, which flipped the game on its head with Richfield leading by five going into the fourth.

The teams continued to trade body blows in the final minutes, but Emery could not close the gap. In fact, with under 2:20 left, Emery found itself trailing by seven. Rasmussen then slammed down a dunk in the lane, jump-starting the Spartans. Ten seconds later, Emery was back on the offensive end where Rasmussen got two offensive rebounds and a put back to make it 55-52. Emery forced a stop on the other end, but allowed Richfield one of its 16 offensive rebounds on the night. The Wildcats took advantage with a bucket to push it back to five, 57-52, with one minute remaining.

On the ensuing possession, Luke Justice quickly drove to the hoop where he was fouled. After two made free throws, it was back to a one-score game. Twenty seconds later, Justice tipped the ball to Creek Sharp for the steal, ran down the court and received the pass from Sharp for a fast-break layup. Emery was knocking on the door, down one.

The Spartans came out in a full court press and Wade Stilson climbed the ladder to get his hand on the attempted pass. The deflection landed in the hands of Easton Nielson, giving Emery a chance to pull ahead. Justice was later fouled and went to the line for a one-and-one. He played a key part in the Spartans’ comeback, but his first attempt came up short, missing the opportunity to tie or take the lead. Emery was forced to foul immediately and it happened to be Griffin Wayman, Richfield’s best free throw shooter. Fortunately, Wayman missed his second attempt, keeping it a two-point game.

In the final seconds, Emery passed the ball down to Rasmussen, who was fouled with 5.5 seconds left. Rasmussen was just a 27% shooter at the line, but his team needed both. The first shot went up rattled around the rim, popped up and then down the cylinder. With a chance to tie the game, Rasmussen sunk the second shot with no drama to make it 58-58.

A controversial blocking foul was called two seconds later at half court, giving the Wildcats an opportunity to survive the Spartan comeback. Richfield’s Cort Moon had an great night, but was short on the front end of his one-and-one attempt, allowing the Spartan Center to exhale as the teams prepared for overtime.

To open the extra four-minute period, Stilson found Rasmussen for another dunk. Richfield did not blink, though, and came down the court and hit a three to go back on top. That would be the final time the Wildcats would lead. Nielson hit a couple of free throws and Zach Tuttle made two layups to push Emery over the hump. Justice had another steal and assist as Emery came back in dramatic fashion to knock off Richfield 68-63.

The Tram Electric Player of the Game went to Rasmussen with his 20 points and 15 rebounds. He also had one steal and one block, while contesting multiple shots at the rim. On top of his two critical free throws, he scored 12 of his 20 points in the final quarter and overtime. Although he was in foul trouble most the game, when his team needed him most, he delivered.

Stilson also finished with an incredible stat line with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks. Two other Spartans reached double-figure scoring, including Justice with 14 points and Talon Tuttle with 11. The former and Nielson each recorded three steals apiece.

Emery needed the entire squad to orchestrate the comeback upset, and everyone stepped up and played a part. Even free throws went in the Spartans’ favor as Emery finished the second half and overtime going 10-12 at the line. Emery also only committed seven turnovers after the half, demonstrating the Spartans’ composure.

The Spartans (12-4, 3-1) will hope to ride that momentum into Moab on Friday when they play the Red Devils (5-13, 0-4).

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