OGDEN — During a two-week stretch last month, Bear River’s boys basketball team lost in double overtime to Ben Lomond, triple overtime to Ogden and then by one point to No. 1 Morgan.
As frustrating as those losses were, they weren’t in vain.
Bear River learned from those past failures and put that knowledge to good use on Thursday afternoon as it eked out a 66-61 victory over Judge Memorial in the 3A quarterfinals at Weber State.
“We would’ve loved to win those games, but I think it really helped us because we’ve been there before and we know the feeling, and the actions that got us those losses, and we were willing to make some changes and hopefully keep ourselves out of those situations,” said Bear River coach Kasey Winters.
In a game that featured 14 lead changes and 11 ties, Bear River found itself in gut-check situations all game, and it never panicked.
After Judge scored on seven of eight possessions to start the fourth quarter, Bear River suddenly found itself trailing 57-53 with 3:49 remaining after leading by five entering the fourth quarter.
“You just have to keep pushing forward, that’s all you can do. Basketball is a lot of ups and downs. That was their up, and then we decided to come back and answer,” said Bear River’s Wade Miller, who led all scorers with 29 points, including 20 in the first half.
As good as Miller was all game, including a 3-pointer late, it was Bear River’s unsung heroes who made the difference down the stretch.
Little-used Stetson Summers scored a pair of buckets in the paint over the next two minutes, including a rebound putback that tied the game at 59-59 with less than two minutes remaining.
“The other boys have done a good job of turning the reigns over to Bubba (Miller) and allowing him to make them better players, and he does a pretty good job of that, of getting them the ball where they’re wide open and they can knock down shots,” Winters said.
On Bear River’s next possession, Miller’s killer instinct took over. He drained a baseline 3-pointer — which he said was his biggest shot of the year — to put Bear River in front 62-59 with 1:26 remaining.
Bear River pushed the lead to 64-59 with a pair of Summers free throws, but the Bears weren’t out of the woods yet. Judge cut the deficit to 64-61 on a pair of Terrell Young free throws with 20 seconds remaining, and then it quickly regained possession as Bear River threw away the inbounds pass.
Bear River played great defense coming out of the timeout, forcing Judge into a rushed 3-pointer that wasn’t close.
The Bears advance to the 3A semifinals on Friday and will face Region 9 champion Snow Canyon at 7:30 p.m.
Along with Miller’s 29 points, Kody King added 12 for Bear River which shot 44 percent from the field.
Heading into the game, Winters said he was genuinely concerned about Judge’s athleticism, particularly on the glass. He was ecstatic his team allowed only four offensive rebounds.
“Defensive rebounding is what it came down to, and luckily we were able to do what we set out to do,” Winters said.