West Wendover — a school less than half the size of Grantsville — came ready to play Wednesday night in the Cowboys’ 66-56 home win.
The Wolverines led by as many as seven points in the first half, led by senior forward Zade Elton’s nine points and senior guard Bryan Flores’ seven in the first quarter alone.
“Defense, we knew that Flores and Elton were the kids to stop. They were getting the shots that they wanted,” Grantsville associate head coach Brandon Pehrson said. “There was never doubt that we would win the game today, but I knew that — and we talked about it at halftime — that the defense would have to change.”
Elton drilled a shot from the elbow as time expired in the first quarter to make it 19-13 Wolverines, and Flores hit a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer in the second quarter to make it 35-31.
The pair scored all but 11 of West Wendover’s points in the first half. But when Grantsville switched defenses from a three-quarter court 1-2-2 press to a full-court man-to-man look, that all changed as the Cowboys held the visitors to four points in the third quarter.
“We’re a better team when we play good defense, we score more points,” Pehrson said. “The full man didn’t necesarily lead to turnovers, it was press, press, press. We were on them. It was good transition defense because we were already on our man. It just snowballed from there.”
Grantsville retook the lead late in the third quarter, and senior center Trevor Colson’s layup out of an inbounds pass at the 2:37 mark gave them a 41-37 lead that capped off a 10-2 run after halftime.
“It really wasn’t their defense, it’s just we just got outside of our system,” West Wendover head coach John Sharp said. “We had our big guys starting to come out to the 3-point line, he wouldn’t go inside. We just had a couple of meltdowns when guys were trying to take over the game, try to go one-on-one with players, and not run through our offense.”
Grantsville forward Jared Roberts hit a 3-pointer in transition with about 1:30 left in the quarter to make it a five-point lead, then earned himself a fast-break layup on the next possession.
Roberts hit another two 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter as the Cowboys finally started to run the floor, eventually leading by as much as 14 points.
“We needed to score. We went though a drought where we didn’t score,” Sharp said. “[Roberts] got hot, buried two or three 3’s. That hurt because we [weren’t] guarding out at the 3-point line. We were sagging in to help, leaving him wide open.”
Inside the four-minute mark with a double-digit lead, the Cowboys started playing with more patience to slow the game down and take more time off the clock. The Wolverines didn’t help their cause with two missed free throws at the front of one-and-one situations in the final quarter. Elton and Flores did, however, earn fast-break layups to pull within eight points when the game was already all-but decided.
Elton finished with 23 points and Flores had 18. West Wendover shot 72-percent from the free-throw line.
Colson led Grantsville with 24 points while Roberts added 13 and senior guard Saxon Stringham another 12. The Cowboys made 17 of 24 foul shots, markedly better than their 56-percent average so far this season prior to Wednesday’s win.
West Wendover is now 7-3 on the season. Grantsville is now 5-3 and will face 3-3 Kearns on the road Friday.
“Grantsville has a great club,” Sharp said. “They’ve got some players. They’re big, they’re athletic, they’re long. Good luck to them.”