Before Wednesday night’s matchup against Class 5A Cottonwood, the Tooele boys basketball team talked about the importance of playing good defense.
For the first two quarters of the Buffaloes’ 64-53 win over the Colts, they showed just how stingy they can be, rolling to a 41-19 lead through the first 16 minutes.
“We came out with a different mindset and a different mentality,” Tooele coach Shawn Faux said. “I think the kids came out and played their butts off on defense. Our rotation was good. The best part of the whole thing was the talking on defense. When we talk and we communicate with one another, our intensity is better, our rotation is better and we get the stops that we’re looking for.”
The Buffaloes (1-1), who lost their season opener 60-35 to Westlake just before Thanksgiving, were determined to come out with a better showing Wednesday night. It didn’t hurt that senior guard Tyler Lawrence found his shooting stroke early, nailing five 3-pointers in the opening half.
“We came out and brought the energy,” he said. “Everybody was moving the ball. I thank my teammates for dishing me the ball. I was just feeling it. I’m not going to score like that every night, but everyone stepped up. It’s a team game, and that’s how we’re going to win.”
Cottonwood (1-1) took an early 10-5 lead on an and-one by Kalin Facemyer with 5:26 remaining in the first quarter. However, the Buffaloes finished the quarter on a 13-2 run and never looked back, as the Colts couldn’t find an answer for Lawrence’s perimeter shooting or the inside game of Jared Jackson and Ace Hymas.
The Colts briefly closed to within four points midway through the second quarter, but Lawrence hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers as part of a 13-0 spurt that essentially put the game out of reach.
“We came out defensively ready to go,” Lawrence said. “We had the energy and we were hyped up and ready to go.”
Cottonwood turned up the pressure in the second half in a desperate attempt to get back into the game, but the Colts never got the Buffaloes’ lead under double-digits despite forcing multiple Tooele turnovers. Cottonwood outscored Tooele 34-23 after halftime.
“We need to play for four quarters,” Faux said. “[With] a young group like this, there are concerns with having a letdown in the third and fourth quarter. My hat’s off to Cottonwood — I knew they weren’t going to roll over and play dead.”
Hymas added 12 points for Tooele, while Jackson had 11 and senior Matt Memmott added eight. Connor Searle had six for the Buffaloes, who also got two points from Lincoln Powers and one point from Kyle Brady.
While the Buffaloes were pleased with the result, they weren’t as pleased with their effort in the second half.
“It was a good feeling, but we’ve got to keep that up the whole game,” Lawrence said. “We can’t let them score however many they did in the second half. We’ve got to keep it under 20 each half. In the first half, we came out ready to put a beating on them. In the second half, we came out a little too content. We’ve got to keep the same mentality.”
Tooele plays host to another class 5A opponent on Friday when Taylorsville comes to town. The Warriors are 0-2 after losses to Lehi and Olympus, but their depth should provide the Buffaloes with a tough test.
“Our schedule is what it is because we want to come out and compete against some bigger schools,” Faux said. “We want to get that experience. Right now, the confidence level is high. It’s a good thing for the morale and their mindset, but now we’re going to see where this team is at when we go home for the first game on Friday. We’ll see how we handle another 5A team coming into our place.”