It was truly a tale of two halves for the Grantsville boys basketball team Saturday night.
In the first half, the Cowboys could do little wrong, building a healthy 37-21 lead over Juab. But after halftime, Grantsville had a hard time solving the Wasps’ zone defense, and poor free-throw shooting allowed Juab to have a chance to win in the final minutes.
While the Cowboys eventually held on for a 56-52 win, Grantsville was far from satisfied with its effort, particularly over the final 16 minutes.
“We were playing some solid basketball (in the first half),” Cowboys senior forward Jackson Sandberg said. “If we can put a whole game together, we’ll be solid.”
The win was the first for Grantsville interim head coach Stace Riding, who replaced Robb Collins just before the Cowboys’ game against Granger on Dec. 20. Riding noted that Juab’s switch from a man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone, and eventually a 1-2-2 zone, in the second half caught the Cowboys (5-6) off-guard.
“You still want to be aggressive and attack, yet be smart with the ball,” Riding said. “I felt like (Juab) forced us to do things that were kind of out of character. We started forcing passes that just weren’t there. They went to a defense that we haven’t seen, so our offensive sets were out of whack.”
Juab (4-7) outscored Grantsville 16-7 in the third quarter, finishing the period on a 14-2 run that included two 3-pointers from Brenden Allred, with one each by Ty Allred and Kai Taylor. That put the Wasps within seven points with eight minutes left in the game.
The Cowboys had their chances to put the game away in the fourth quarter, but shot 2-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final eight minutes and 11-for-25 in the game. That, along with continued hot shooting by Juab, kept the Wasps’ hopes alive. A pair of 3-pointers by Tyler Dinkel and Ty Allred, along with a layup by Taylor, had Juab trailing 55-52 with 16.2 seconds left in the game.
The Cowboys survived when Tuhker Mulford hit one of two from the foul line shortly after, and Grantsville kept Juab off the scoreboard in the final seconds.
“We used that lead that we built, because we played not-too-well in the second half,” Sandberg said. “We couldn’t make a free throw, and we just didn’t have the same hustle. We were kind of all over the place.”
Sandberg and the Cowboys were dominant in the first half — particularly in the opening quarter. Sandberg scored Grantsville’s first seven points with hard work in the post, and the Cowboys snagged multiple offensive rebounds to give themselves second and third chances to score.
Later in the quarter, after the Wasps closed the gap to 7-5, Mulford hit four 3-pointers in a row, accounting for 12 of his team-high 15 points, and Taylor Wood had a putback layup to give Grantsville a 21-12 lead after the first quarter.
“I was happy to see us come out like that,” Riding said. “That’s what I wanted. I told them, ‘we’ve got to come out intense and get after them and kind of smack them in the face,’ and I thought we did that in the first half. We played pretty well.”
The Cowboys kept pushing in the second quarter, getting 3-pointers from Wood and Tate Allred while Sandberg continued to give Juab fits down low. Eleven of Sandberg’s 14 points came in the first half.
“We had a lot better energy the first half, I think,” Sandberg said. “Our defense was really good and we were getting a lot of rebounds. This week, we’ve been trying to play a lot more high-intensity and trying to outhustle them.”
Ammon Bartley had eight points and Wood added seven for Grantsville. Allred and Carter Killian each scored four points and Davin Ekins and Kayden Bohman each scored two.
Taylor had 11 points to lead the Wasps. Zac Cowan had 10 points and Brenden Allred and Kollin Robertson each had eight.
Grantsville will travel to Morgan for its Region 13 opener Wednesday night. The Cowboys’ next home game is Friday against South Summit.