BAYFIELD – History did not repeat itself Friday.
The Bayfield High School boys basketball team earned the right to host a regional tournament last year and were bounced in the first round. The stinging defeat stuck with the Wolverines, and at the Region 7 tournament Friday at BHS, the No. 7 Wolverines never left any doubt that the first round exit of 2017 would not happen again, as they cruised to a 62-41 victory against No. 26 Brush.
“We definitely came in with way too much confidence last year and were a little too cocky,” BHS senior Ryan Phelps said. “We knew we couldn’t come in with that same attitude, so we came out and had a good start. We didn’t have the great second, third and fourth quarters that we wanted, but we came out and gave it a good start, which helped us in the end.”
The Wolverines (16-7) set the tone immediately when guard Keyon Prior led a fast break and left a lob off the backboard for Phelps and a two-handed slam.
Phelps wasn’t done with his assault on the rim and put down several more dunks in the game, each one igniting the Wolverines and their fan base. While Phelps got it done down low, he also sank a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer that put BHS ahead 21-6.
“That was very important for us,” Prior said of the dominant start. “First-quarter and first-half starts for us have been something we’ve been lacking, and it was good to finally have one, but now we need to maintain it. It was a bad second half, but we got it out of our system tonight.”
Bayfield slowed down in the second quarter and took a 30-17 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Bayfield maintained its large lead, but at times struggled with ball control against the 1-2-2 zone defense of Brush (14-10).
“It’s for sure going to keep us humble,” Prior said of the miscues. “We just have to stay humble and put more focus on the details. We were pretty lackadaisical with our passing tonight. We’ve played against a 1-2-2; we just didn’t execute like we wanted to.”
When the offense was clicking, there was no slowing down the Wolverines, who put together good runs with half-court sets while pushing the tempo when it was advantageous.
Bayfield led 48-26 after the third quarter, and in the fourth, several of the starters were pulled with the victory in hand.
Phelps finished with a monster night. He had 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Dax Snooks added 12 points for the Wolverines, Turner Kennedy had 10 points and Prior finished with seven points.
“I thought we showed some patience on offense when that’s what was needed and we pushed the ball when we had it,” BHS head coach Jeff Lehnus said.
“I think we could have shot better tonight. Even though it’s a solid win, I think we can still play a lot better, and that’s what it’s going to take if we’re going to win regionals.”
Bayfield will play No. 23 The Academy (17-6) in the regional final at 1 p.m. Saturday at BHS.
The Wildcats beat No. 10 Resurrection Christian (16-7) 67-66 to reach the regional final.