When Bear River and Box Elder face each other in basketball, all bets are off and records are thrown out the window. Tuesday night in Brigham City was no different, as the Bees, behind Max Watson’s 13 points, held off the Bears 58-50.
The Bees shot out to a 17-14 lead after one period, but the Bears ramped up the ‘D’ in the second, holding Box Elder to only four points.
But it was all Box Elder in the second half as they outscored the Bears 37-20 to earn the win and stay perfect at 7-0. Box Elder travels to a tournament at Olympus High next week. The Bears fell to 6-4 after suffering their third straight loss. They face North Sanpete and Juab after the holidays.
Darius McFarland added 11 while Jarom Mecham and Kevin Harris both scored 10 for Box Elder. Mike Litchford paced Bear River again with 18 points. Bridger Beus added 16 and Caleb Jensen swished home three 3-pointers for nine points.
Box Elder coach Jace McKee was please with the win, but was a bit worried about his team’s inconsistent play; particularly in the second quarter where they managed only two baskets.
“It was a hard fought (win). They had some easy looks from the three (point line) after some second chance rebounds (in the first half),” McKee said. “We jumped up early but we kind of relaxed. We had some good looks (in the second quarter), but they were quick looks.”
Bear River’s patience and defensive pressure, running a diamond zone, gave the Bees trouble. Litchford abused the Bees for 10 points in the quarter and Bear River held a 30-21 lead. Coming out of the half, the Bears seemed to be content in running the clock out rather than attacking the basket as they had in the second period, and it came back to bite them. The Bees harassed the Bears with steal after steal and built an 18-6 scoring advantage in the third. The Bees cruised home with 19 points in the fourth.
McFarland, a senior guard, said the rivalry game is fun to play in. “There is a little extra motivation (because the schools are so close). I have been playing (these Bear River players) for 10 years. We struggled in the first half but we fed off of our fans’ energy. I have never personally beaten Bear River in high school in basketball (so this was a fun win).
“We panicked a little bit in the second quarter. But we came in the locker room and decided to relax and play how we play in the second half. Our defense will lead the offense. We got some steals and were able to speed it up the way we like to play.”
Beus was a bright spot for the Bears. He had 11 points in the second half as his team, playing without starting point guard Triston Hartfiel, tried to keep up with the taller Bees.
“We knew we had a tough game coming up. They just got some momentum and kept it (late in the game). They came in here a little cocky, being 6-0, but we came out to battle and gave it all we had. We didn’t want to back down to anyone,” Beus said. “(In the second half) we were getting frustrated with ourselves with the turnovers. We turned the ball over way too many times and they got too many points off of turnovers.”
When asked about being undefeated, and if there was more pressure on the Bees, McKee said he was going to preach to the team to be focused on the next game up.
“They are kids are probably thinking about (being undefeated). We are just trying to think about the next (game). We have four really good teams we are going to play down in Salt Lake, so we have our work cut out,” said McKee.
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”><strong>Score by quarters</strong></span>
<strong>Bear River 14 16 6 14 – 50</strong>
<strong>Box Elder 17 4 18 19 – 58</strong>