3A boys basketball championship: At long last, Wasps beat Bulldogs

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OREM —- Winning a state champions is what all high school athletes dream about. If you're Wasatch, beating Judge Memorial in the process is icing on the cake.

Ending several years of frustration against its former region foe, Wasatch dominated Judge 45-24 on Saturday to claim the 3A boys basketball state championship at Utah Valley University.

The victory snapped Judge's nine-game winning streak against Wasatch, which included a victory in the 2008 title game.

"We wanted to play Judge in the championship. We've never beat Judge," said Mike Brown, who led Wasatch with 22 points and was a freshman sitting on the bench during Wasatch's 2008 runner-up finish to Judge. "It's a lot more satisfying to beat Judge."

By knocking off their nemesis, the Wasps put the finishing touches on one of the most dominant seasons in school history with a 24-1 record and a fifth state championship.

"I told the kids all along that being the preseason No. 1 doesn't mean anything," said Wasatch coach Norm Hayter. "The only thing that means anything is what happens that last game on Saturday, and that's who the real No. 1 team is. They played with the targets on their back the whole year and dealt with the pressure all year."

Defense was a big part of Wasatch's success this season, especially in a championship game it had realistically wrapped up by halftime.

"I've always told the kids offense sells tickets and defense wins championships," said Hayter.

The attention to defensive details made all the difference as Wasatch held Judge to just 25 percent shooting and forced 13 turnovers.

The Judge team that looked so dominant against Emery in the semifinals looked virtually helpless against the Wasps on Saturday.

Leading 10-8 after the first quarter, Wasatch held Judge scoreless over the next 12 minutes and built a 27-8 lead in the process. Will Whitt finally ended the drought on a three-point play with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter, but by then the damage had long since been done and Wasatch fans had no qualms about beginning their early celebrations at the McKay Events Center.

Ironically, neither team scored again the rest of the quarter as Wasatch became complacent and Judge's offensive woes continued.

During the decisive middle quarters in which Judge scored just three points, the Bulldogs committed 10 turnovers and only made 1 of 11 shots.

"Every day in practice we do defense for the first 30 minutes, and that's all we work on. Defense first, offense second," said Brown. "It's a low scoring game, but we won."

While Brown led the way with 22 points, teammate Trevor Bamgartner turned in an impressive performance with five points, seven assists and two steals.

After scoring just 11 points in the first three quarters, Judge scored 11 points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to trim Wasatch's lead to 32-22 on a rebound-putback by Ben Cook.

Wasatch immediately called time out, regained momentum and put the game away.

e-mail: jedward@desnews.com

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James Edward


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