Photos by Teresa Chipman. Copyright, all rights reserved.
By Jason Turner, Logan Herald Journal
PRESTON — The good news for Preston is it played arguably its best fourth quarter of the young season.
Unfortunately for the Indians, inconsistent play in the second and third quarters proved to be too much to overcome.
Preston trimmed a 11-point second-half deficit to one, but ultimately ran out of time in a 57-54 setback to Century in a district boys basketball game — the Indians first of the campaign — Wednesday night.
“We fought really hard in the fourth quarter, but we’ve got to have that the whole game, all four quarters,” Preston center Kyle Lords said. “We gave Century too many open looks and their scorer got going early and we weren’t able to (fully) come back from that. It’s always hard to dig yourself out of a hole.”
Indeed, the Indians (3-3, 0-1 district) had their hands full defending sophomore standout Malek Harwell. Preston did a reasonably good job defending Harwell after halftime, but the athletic guard had 15 of his game-best 24 points in the opening half.
Utah State assistant coaches Tim Duryea and Chris Jones were in attendance Wednesday and watching Harwell, who went 8 of 13 from the field.
Preston played much better team defense against Harwell in the second half, but it proved to be too little too late.
“Backside help, there’s always got to be the backside help,” Lords said of his team’s second-half adjustments. “If you’re going to stop good scorers like that, you’ve always got to have another guy waiting to take a charge or step over and help block a shot.”
Lords certainly did his part to give the Indians a fighting chance late in the game. The 6-foot-5 sophomore put together a consistent performance for Preston, scoring a team-high 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting and pulling down a team-leading six rebounds.
“(His consistency) was huge and he’s improving each game,” PHS head coach Tyler Jones said. “… He’s still adjusting to the physicality of the game. … But, he inside, made some big plays, key baskets for us tonight.”
The Indians received big fourth-quarter performances from brothers Taylor and Austin Smellie. The duo combined for eight points and five assists in the quarter.
Simply put, the Indians distributed the ball well in the fourth quarter, and that’s the biggest reason they outscored the Diamondbacks (2-5, 1-1) 16-13 in the period.
“We made that extra pass and when you do that you’re going to get a good shot, and chances are you’re going to make that, instead of forced shots or quick shots,” Jones said.
Austin Smellie darn near knotted the score at 55-all with a little more than a minute remaining in the contest, but his foot was on the line when he knocked down a deep perimeter jumper.
Unfortunately for the youthful Indians, they still had two fouls to give, and the hosts took 27 seconds to foul Century for the first time. By the time the D-backs were in the bonus, there were only 21 seconds left in the game.
Wyatt Holt then calmly knocked down two free throws for the D-backs, and the Indians didn’t really get a good look at a game-tying 3-pointer, although they did attempt two.
“Execution late in games, you’ve got to be at your best, and we weren’t,” said Jones, who otherwise praised his squad’s play in the fourth quarter.
The Smellie brothers each scored 11 points for Preston, which only led three times in the game — the latest being a 10-9 advantage with 2:49 remaining in the first quarter on two Preston Hobbs freebies. Taylor Smellie, who struggled from the field, and Austin Smellie also combined for nine assists.
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