By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography)
SOUTH JORDAN – The Copper Hills High boys basketball team was in catch-up mode from the outset Friday night on the road at Bingham. The Grizzlies came all the way back from an initial 14-point deficit to grab the lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but 6-foot-8 senior forward Yoeli Childs and the Miners had the answers, pulling away once again to had Copper Hills its first loss of the season, 73-64.
Bingham seized control right out of the gate with a pair of sweet 10-foot baseline jump hooks from Childs and the Miners scored the first eight points of the night. Eventually, led by Childs down low and owning the glass, while 6-6 junior forward Samuta Avea was attacking the rim off the bounce, Bingham went up 18-4 before the Grizzlies closed to within 10 by the end of the opening stanza.
Copper Hills has a 6-8 post player of its own in senior Porter Hawkins, and he was a nightmare for the Miners in the first period. That was mostly due to the foul trouble that followed attempts to defend him down low in the block.
Hawkins shot eight free throws in the first period, hitting four, and added two more charity tosses in the second stanza to keep the pressure on the home team. Avea picked up his third foul with 3:31 remaining before intermission and that was another major story of the first half, which ended with the Miners leading by 10 at 32-22.
Avea picked up his fourth foul at the 4:58 mark of the third quarter and that opened the door for a major Grizzly run. At the time, Bingham was up 38-27, but Copper Hills followed up Avea’s move to the bench with a 6-0 run to take a major chunk out of that deficit.
Childs temporarily stopped the bleeding with a huge 3-pointer, but by the end of the third, it was a three-point contest. That’s because 6-4 junior guard Stockton Shorts dropped seven in the third and 6-foot point guard Preston Sanchez took control of the game on the perimeter. The absence of Avea took away some defense from the Miners and also hindered the team offensively as his aggressive drives to the basket were not part of the attack.
The Grizzlies continued to roll into the final period, connecting on two shots to open the fourth that put them momentarily on top, but then Childs stepped up once again and changed the game. The BYU-bound big man buried another trey and was fouled in the process. While he misfired from the line, the long ball was just the jump-start Bingham needed.
The Miners pulled away from there, fueled by some big stops at the defensive end. In addition to dropping seven fourth-quarter points, Avea took the defensive assignment on Sanchez for stretches of the fourth, even with those four fouls. In one sequence, the junior pogo-ed off the floor twice to grab successive offensive boards as he helped ratchet up his team’s effort and energy.
With some added defensive intensity from Dason Youngblood taking Copper Hills out of its game, Bingham opened its lead back up to claim a huge league victory. In doing so, the Miners (3-0 in Region 3, 11-2 overall) avenged a three-point loss to Copper Hills (2-1, 12-1) back in December in the title game of the Utah Elite 8 tournament.
Hawkins led the way for Copper Hills, with 20 points, while Sanchez added 19 and Shorts scored 17.
Childs set the tone for the Miners with a dominant 11-rebound, two-block performance in the paint combined with the full offensive arsenal. The senior hit critical three points, drained mid-range jumpers and connected three times on that classic baseline jump hook on his way to 26 points. Despite missing significant chunks with foul trouble, Avea finished with 18 points and six boards.
Next up for Copper Hills, the Grizzlies look to get back on track in region play with a Wednesday visit to Taylorsville (0-2, 3-10). The Miners have another critical contest coming up Wednesday as they visit West Jordan (1-1, 10-3).