Gritty Grizzlies hold off scrappy Mustangs
By Jason Turner sports writer
SMITHFIELD â It certainly wasnât the most aesthetically pleasing basketball theyâve played this season, but the Grizzlies were gritty enough to earn a gratifying result.
Jared Bagley, Anthony McDade and Cooper Ward all made big offensive plays down the stretch, and Logan shined defensively en route to a 53-48 victory over a scrappy Mountain Crest squad on Day 1 of the Cache Classic Thursday night at Bobcat Gym.
âI thought we were very solid on defense and did what we needed to do to limit dribble penetration,â Logan head coach Logan Brown said. âOffensively, the game always seems a little easier when the ballâs going in and we didnât quite shoot it the way we can, but I felt like we finished (the game) the way we needed to, finished it with composure.â
The Grizzlies (2-2) never trailed during the final 13 minutes of play, and they took control in the third quarter thanks in large part to the defensive performances of guard Bryce Ellis and center Josh Jensen off the bench.
The pesky Ellis had three of his four steals in the third quarter, while Jensen, a lanky 6-foot-6 sophomore, blocked three shots in the period. Additionally, Jensen altered a few more second-half shots by the shorter Mustangs (0-4).
âBryce brings an energy thatâs hard to measure,â Brown said. âHe comes in and plays hard, is a great teammate, has a great attitude, and gave us a little bit of a boost when we needed it in the third quarter. And Josh, his help defense and the way he can alter shots was huge for us tonight.â
Mountain Crest actually got off to a strong start in the second half. The inexperienced Mustangs outscored the Grizzlies 9-2 during the first two-plus minutes of the third quarter to take their final lead at 27-25.
Logan responded with seven unanswered points, four by McDade, to move back in front. A few minutes later, the Grizzlies ended the quarter with a 6-0 run to secure a comfortable 10-point advantage.
The Grizzlies led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter, but the Mustangs refused to go away. Kordell Welch scored seven points during a 9-2 Mountain Crest spurt to pare the deficit to 47-42 with 3:43 remaining in the contest.
âIâd say overall, yes, itâs our best game (of the season),â MC head coach Kyle Straatman said. âI mean, this is the third game weâve been right there (within striking distance) toward the end. And yeah, this time we got toward the end and we actually made a few plays, and that was the biggest thing that I saw tonight.â
Welch certainly did everything he could to keep his team in the game. No. 0 poured in 14 of his career-high 21 points in the second half. Welch was equally effective firing away from the perimeter â he drained a trio of 3-pointers â and taking the ball to the rack.
The sophomoreâs performance was especially noteworthy when you consider heâs been sick all week and actually spent some time in the hospital. Straatman quipped âhe pulled an MJ (Michael Jordan) tonight.â
âHe was just aggressive and he wasnât really overthinking,â Straatman said of Welch. âI mean, sometimes he kind of thinks too much, and he was just aggressive tonight. And his teammates did a good job of encouraging him, because he can score.â
Notwithstanding Welchâs heroics, the Grizzlies played smart basketball down the stretch and never allowed the Mustangs to get a sniff at the lead. Ward had a big bucket off a nice inbound pass late in the fourth quarter, and Bagley iced the game by drilling four straight free throws.
Bagley finished with a team-best 17 points, including 10 in the second half. McDade scored all 13 of his points in the first three quarters, while Ward netted five of his seven points in the fourth.
Ward garnered the praise of Brown for his work on the glass. The 6-2 junior corralled four offensive rebounds.
Nicholas Nethercott posted a double-double for the Mustangs as he finished with 10 points and 13 boards. Brady Hall dished out seven assists for Mountain Crest, which also came up short in a competitive game against Logan last season.
âItâs always a good time beating a valley rival,â Ward said. âIt wasnât very pretty for us, but it was good to scrap it out. A winâs a win, and weâll take it.â
Both teams will return to action Friday against intra-Cache Valley opponents. Mountain Crest will square off against Preston at 2:30 p.m., while Logan and Sky View are scheduled to take the court at 7:30.