SALT LAKE CITY — They were plays rarely seen in Utah high school basketball.
In the first quarter of Waterford's 54-41 win over Rowland Hall on Wednesday night, Ravens center Neal Monson got the ball about 5 feet away from the basket. He went baseline, dribbled a couple of times and dunked.
In the second quarter, he executed a give-and-go in the paint and finished with a two-handed dunk. In the fourth quarter, he caught an alley-oop and dunked to give Waterford a commanding 45-26 lead.
The plays were spectacular for fans but just another day at the office for the 6-foot-10 center.
"Most people aren't used to those passing lanes, so it usually catches them off guard," Monson said of his above-the-rim play. "It's a good way to get the crowd into it and to demoralize the other team."
Monson, who's signed to play at the University of Utah, was dominant on both ends of the floor, as he had 25 points and blocked six shots. He is 2A's second-leading scorer, averaging 21.7 points per game, and is a four-year starter.
"I've been spoiled for three or four years," said Reid Monson, Waterford's coach and Neal's father. "When you have a 6-10 guy that can do as many things as he can, it's an absolute luxury."
Monson controlled Wednesday's game from the start, as he blocked three shots in the paint in the first quarter. He scored 15 of his team's 21 first-half points, outscoring the Winged Lion by himself. Rowland Hall scored 12 points and made four shots in the first half.
The Ravens pulled away in the third quarter, opening the period on a 14-0 run. Rowland Hall didn't score in the third until Nick Bradley banked in a 3-pointer with a minute to go in the period.
Waterford stayed in control until Monson's alley-oop dunk actually gave Rowland Hall some life. Monson was whistled for a technical because he pulled himself up toward the rim after dunking, something, he said following the game, he shouldn't have done. The Winged Lion then put together their best offensive stretch of the game, going on a 10-1 run to get within 10 points midway through the fourth.
But the Ravens put the game away by turning up their defensive pressure and making their free throws in the final minutes.
"They're a hard-fighting team, and they shoot really well in this place," Reid Monson said of the Winged Lion. "They kept playing hard, had fresh legs and made some shots."
Waterford won its fourth straight game, improving to 4-1 in Region 14 and 10-3 overall. The Ravens, who broke in four new starters this season, seem to be coming together and rallying around their big man midway through their region season.
"If we're going to be successful, there's going to have to be a good give-and-take between them," Reid Monson said of the play between his star center and players surrounding him. "It's still a work in progress, but it's getting better."