By Kurt Johnson
It was the biggest game of the year, so far. Bingham vs. Alta for the top spot in Region 3 boys basketball as both teams entered the contest unbeaten in league play.
As reserve guard Nick Beard drained 3-pointers like crazy to keep the Hawks in the game, Bingham was riding the back of its dominant post player, Yoeli Childs. The 6-foot-8, 230-pound big man had 18 points and six rebounds at intermission as the Miners built a 32-26 advantage.
At the outset, as Bingham scored the game’s first eight points and Alta struggled to get shots up against an intense effort from the Miners on the defensive end, it looked like it had the potential to be a one-sided affair. That changed with a couple of Chris Roberts buckets to get the Hawks back in the game late in the first, but it really turned on three Beard treys and seven points from Neema Namdar in the second stanza.
In the end, the players whose names will be most recognized for their contribution to the outcome of this game, however, are none of those. Instead, a different Bingham forward and a little-used back-up stole the show.
With 1:50 remaining in the third quarter, the Miners once again succeeded in feeding Childs deep on the low block, but as he spun to the rim to throw it down, the sound of the referee’s whistle interrupted the fireworks. As Childs completed a powerful dunk, he looked to his right where the baseline official was signaling that his call was an offensive foul on the Bingham center, for hooking the defender with his arm as he spun around him to go to the rim.
Childs flashed a little grin, a little disbelieving, that a foul had been called on him. As he hesitated in reacting to the call, he maintained his grip on the rim and held on too long before dropping to the floor. The same official immediately dropped a technical foul on Childs for hanging on the rim.
That was a problem, and a potential game-changer for the Miners, who still led by six points at the time. Just before that sequence, Childs had picked up a foul at the defensive end, and before head coach Jake Schroeder was able to sub him out of the game, these fouls on offense. The offensive foul was his fourth, which made the technical No. 5 and left Bingham to finish the final 10 minutes of the contest without is leading scorer and rebounder.
Things got a little tense in the Bingham gym, even more so when the visitors followed that moment with the last six points of the third quarter to even the game at 43-43 headed to the fourth. As it turned out, the Miner faithful had nothing to worry about.
Point guard Mike Green was his steady self and Kyle Gearig hit one big three from the corner, but the game was decided by Bingham’s defense (Alta scored just five points in the fourth quarter) and the play of Jared Holman and Jordan Matthews.
It is not surprising that Holman would deliver big in the clutch. The 6-8 forward is a major frontcourt performer for this squad night in and night out, but with Childs out of the game, he stepped up even bigger in the final stanza. In fact, since Childs did not score in the third before fouling out, Holman was the offensive star of the entire second half.
After intermission, Holman scored 11 points (he had 15 in the game), grabbed four rebounds and blocked four shots. He was the ever-present force that willed his team to victory.
Playing the role of sidekick on this night was an unlikely hero. Thrust into the heat of a tight game mostly because of Childs’ absence, 6-2 senior guard Jordan Matthews did not play at all until the fourth period, but he was there as the Miners closed out the 54-48 victory. He scored just one point, but Matthews had five rebounds (three of them on them on the offensive glass to extend possessions) and a steal while playing a huge role on defense.
Coaches always talk about those players who see few minutes needing to be ready when their number is called. Friday night in South Jordan, Matthews was certainly the right man at the right time in the right place.