Sandy • For Ryan Andrus and the American Fork Cavemen, Christmas break is over.
The five-day break from the hardcourt proved to be their biggest challenge in defeating Copper Hills in Thursday's opening game of the Jordan Holiday Tournament, 48-39.
The 6-foot-10 senior led American Fork with 21 points and 10 rebounds in a 5A match that proved time away from basketball might be the Cavemen's biggest obstacle.
"We need to learn how to self-motivate and be ready to play back-to-backs," coach Doug Meacham said. "We looked like we've been playing Xbox for the last five days."
It took the first half for Meacham's squad to go to their game plan of utilizing Andrus in the low post. Andrus' ability to capitalize on double teams and pass out to shooters was the difference, according to Meacham.
"Ryan is an awesome passer and has an innate ability to get out of double teams," Meacham said. "His role changes throughout the entire game."
Six-foot-8 Tyler Rawson, who finished with four points and grabbed seven rebounds, joined Andrus under the low post. The twin towers of Andrus and Rawson gave American Fork an advantage under the basket that guard Christian Wells is always looking to exploit.
"They're the best two bigs in the state," Wells said. "When they get doubled, the guards better be ready for a kickout pass."
Wells finished the game with nine points.
Copper Hills mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter. Led by Austin McCombs' three 3-pointers and an aggressive man defense, the Grizzlies were able to cut the deficit to eight. Meacham hopes that this game serves as a wake-up call to the Cavemen that winning teams start and finish strong.
"We need to learn how to how to close out teams," Meacham said. "When we're leading by 18, we need to learn how to put them away."