Merrill scores 14 points to lead Bountiful to its 12th consecutive victory.
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Bountiful • Gathered at midcourt, the Bountiful Braves sang their school's fight song.
They sang with their fervent student section, they clapped along with the cheerleaders and senior center Nate Pollard ran toward his fans and threw a fist into the air once the crescendo from the Bountiful band came to an end.
The 7-footer was happy for more than one reason. On this night, against his school's most bitter of rivals, the big guy had one of the best games of his career.
"Senior year, you've got to beat your rivals," he said after his Braves defeated rival Woods Cross 62-48 on Friday night. "I know most of those guys personally, and they're great dudes, but when it comes to rivalry games, you've just got to beat them."
Pollard had 11 points, mostly on thunderous right-handed dunks. And while that was third most on the team against the Wildcats, Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell praised his center.
"He's never scored that much in his career," Maxwell said with a laugh, "but he did tonight. He stepped up and did a great job."
The win over Woods Cross gave Bountiful its 12th win in a row. The Braves haven't lost a game since Dec. 6, and Friday showcased their ability to withstand runs.
In fact, a number of runs.
Each time Bountiful grabbed a significant lead, Woods Cross responded. The Wildcats started the second quarter on a 17-3 run after trailing by 11 at the end of the first quarter. After Bountiful rattled off an 11-0 third-quarter run, Woods Cross responded with seven straight points to climb to within three at the beginning of the fourth.
That, as junior guard Sam Merrill guard said, is where the Braves officially put down their foot. Merrill, who had a game-high 14 points, said the team decided to lock down.
"In that fourth quarter, it was our defense that won us that game," he said.
Led by junior Pere Lesueur, who scored all 10 of his points in the fourth qaurter, Bountiful went on a 15-0 run that put the Wildcats in the rear-view mirror. The Braves' defense didn't allow a fourth-quarter point until Woods Cross guard Mike Jacobson drilled a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in the game.
"You just have to be able to curtail runs, make your own and we did that," Maxwell said.
Merrill said he expected a back-and-forth affair with his rivals, adding, "it's our right-next-door neighbor. It feels really good to beat them."
Meanwhile, Pollard shook off any potential of a letdown Tuesday at home against Highland when the Braves aim for their 13th consecutive victory.
"You've just got to go out there, ignore what everyone says and play your hardest like it's your very first game," he said.