ST. GEORGE — The Mustangs came out of the locker room on Wednesday night to a packed house. The student section showed up in numbers, and you could tell that Crimson Cliffs fed off of that energy. They jumped out to a 20-6 lead at the end of the first quarter but slowed down in the second. They led 29-23 at the half, but the offense came right back as they scored with ease to hold off the Enterprise run. The Mustangs won 73-61 after scoring 44 points in the second half.
One thing that was for sure was that the game was up and down, with a lot of offensive output.
“That’s the way we want to play,” head coach Kasey Winters said of the pace of the game. “It got a little sloppy there, we had some turnovers and a lot of travels, I think the guys were a little bit nervous with it being the first game ever. We knew there was going to be a little bit of that but they battled and luckily we ended up pulling that out.”
For a brand new roster, with a mix of kids from across the region, the Mustangs played well. Their offensive sets looked smooth and their ball movement really stood out. Crimson Cliffs had plenty of open three-point attempts, and they shot the ball well on the night.
Jacob Nielsen had 17 points, Cole Sampson contributed 16 points and Daniel Wade exploded for 22 points. Jacob Nielsen admitted that it was a little nerve-racking playing in a packed gym, not to mention that it was their first game at home and as a program.
“At the beginning I was pretty nervous on the bench coming up, giving everybody a high five, but gradually I got more comfortable out there,” Nielsen said. “Then it just felt normal out there.”
Enterprise looked defeated in the first quarter, but they came out in the second looking like a different team. Their offense began to flow and it wasn’t that their defense was stopping the Mustangs, they just stopped hitting shots. Enterprise closed in on the lead, going on a 9-0 run and holding Crimson to only 9 points in the second quarter.
One thing that stood out during the enterprise run was their ability to get the ball inside to their big men. The Mustangs looked to front the Enterprise bigs, but their rotations were late on the backside help. Winters said that played a big role in their runs. They will work on this going forward.
“We will for sure because there are some really good bigs in our league. We’re going to have to improve on that and figure out if we want to double down on the post or if we want to front. We’ll work through some of that.”
Nielsen also brought that up as something they need to work on. That will be the story of Crimson Cliffs this season. They showed their youth and inexperience at times as well.
Their offense seemed to get clustered at times and their floor spacing suffered as a result. They also took some bad shots down the stretch, and Winters spoke about learning how to play with a lead.
“Some of these guys are a little short on experience. We’re young,” Winters said. “A lot of them didn’t play a ton last year, we’ve got to learn from those things. When we have a lead let’s just get a layup or a wide-open shot, don’t dribble the ball too much. We had some dumb fouls too that could hurt us down the road if it’s a close game. We’ll talk about those things in practice and hopefully learn from them.”
At the end of the day, the Mustangs got their first win out of the way before region play starts on Tuesday. This will be a weight off their shoulders, but their room for growth is exponential. With great shooters on the outside and a college-style offense, Crimson Cliffs is on the right path.
Winters was an assistant at Dixie State. He knows what he’s doing with his team, and a college-style offense looked good on the Mustangs Wednesday night.
The next game for the Mustangs will be their Region 9 opener at home against Snow Canyon. That game will be played on Tuesday with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.
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