Seven-footer Eglseder hits for 31 vs. Cyclones
Alta senior Brad Payne knew it was going to be a tough road to upset second-ranked Bellevue-Marquette here Monday afternoon in a Class 1A state tournament quarterfinal at Wells Fargo Arena.
But he and the Cyclones weren't going into the night with a whimper.
Payne scored a team-high 22 points, and Alta gave the Mohawks a few scares along the way before falling short, 62-48.
The story for Bellevue Marquette, as it has been all-season, was its 7-foot-1 senior center, Jordan Eglseder. He scored a game-high 31 points on 14 of 24 shooting and pulled down 13 rebounds.
"It's pretty tough to stop a 7-foot-1 kid," said first-year Alta coach Bart Smith after the game. "Once he gets the ball in the paint, it's two points because of his height and long reach.
"I thought we played well, but with their size, didn't get many second shots at the basket."
The Mohawks also start a 6-6 power forward, a 6-5 small forward and a 6-4 guard. They wound up with a 41-25 advantage on the boards.
Defensively, Alta collapsed in on Eglseder in the paint with double and triple teams, and it hindered the 7-footer at times, especially in the first half.
The Northern Iowa recruit appeared flat-footed early in the game and missed his first few shots, including an ill-advised three-pointer.
That, combined with a fast offensive start by the Cyclones - they led 10-5 with 4 minutes, 23 seconds left in the opening quarter - had Eglseder and his coach, Jim Squiers, on their heels.
"They had a great game plan against us and executed it very well," Squiers said of Alta after the game. "That's a good basketball team over there; they've got some great athletes and they're very quick."
The Mohawks ended the first quarter on a 6-2 run but still trailed 12-11 after eight minutes.
"We started a little slow, and they came out hitting some early shots," Eglseder said. "We knew it would be a tough game, but we never panicked. We've had lots of close games this season."
Three minutes into the second quarter, the teams were tied at 15. Eglseder scored two consecutive baskets from in close as the Mohawks took a 19-15 lead.
With 2:35 left in the half,. Payne canned a two-pointer from the left side for a 24-23 Alta lead. The Mohawks turned the ball over, and Alta returned the favor.
The Mohawks' 6-4 guard, Matt Kilburg, hit a three from the top of the key and after an Alta miss, Eglseder scored from the paint again and his team led 28-24 at the half.
"We were a little sluggish at the start," Squiers added, "but Alta was playing some tough defense.
"We were standing around in the first two quarters, and Jordan was just camped at one spot. We knew we had to get some ball reversal and get Jordan moving from side-to-side in the lane."
Added Eglseder: "I've seen a lot of double and triple teaming this season, but Alta played it really well. Usually, when the ball goes into me, I have some teammates open.
"Alta clogged the passing lanes after the ball got to me, but they still kept their tough defense on me. They're really a quick team."
Bellevue-Marquette came out with some zip in the third quarter. Eglseder scored on two straight shots in the paint for a 32-24 lead, but Alta guard Tyler Boyd hit a three to make it 32-27.
"We let them have some easy baskets at the beginning of the third quarter," Boyd said. "They just had a few more good possessions than we did."
After a tip-in by Kilberg gave Bellevue-Marquette a 34-27 lead, the Cyclones went on a run.
Payne scored on a jumper, but Eglseder was fouled on the other end and made two free throws.
Trailing 36-29 with 2:56 left in the third quarter, the Cyclones scored the next five points on a jumper by Boyd and a three-point shot by Payne. With the Mohawk lead down to two at 36-34, Eglseder scored on an eight-foot jumper, but that was followed by another three-pointer by Payne. With 1:03 left in the third quarter, Alta trailed just 38-37.
On the other end, Eglseder rebounded a teammate's missed shot, then tipped his own shot in for a 40-37 lead.
Alta's bid to get to within one or tie it at the last break fell short when Cyclone guard Kylor Cone missed a three-pointer.
"We got close several times, but could never quite close the gap," Smith said.
Leading 40-37 after three frames, Eglseder made one of two free throws for a 41-37 lead. Alta's 6-4 senior Colin Huseman made a short-range jumper, but that was followed a two-point basket by 6-5 Mohawk guard T.J. Bishop.
Trailing 43-39, Alta's Paul Allerdings missed a three, but Payne corralled the rebound. He also attempted a three, but it missed and Eglseder countered with another inside hoop. With 5:45 left, the Mohawks led 45-39.
Payne kept it close with a two-pointer. Alta had two stops over the next minute, but couldn't take advantage.
"We had some chances to score," Smith said. "We had some good looks; a couple key shots just didn't go down."
Bellevue-Marquette scored the next four points on two-point baskets by Matt Kilburg and Eglseder. With 3:04 left, the Mohawks led 49-41.
Alta got to within five points at 53-48 with 2:01 left after a two-point basket by Payne followed by his fourth and last three-point shot of the game.
The Mohawks countered with a 6-0 run and made their free throws down the stretch.
"I thought we played good enough defense, that's something we've prided ourselves on and have done all year," Payne said. "What it came down was they just made a few more shots than we did."
Payne was near tears after being taken out near the end of the game, but had already gained some perspective about 20 minutes later.
"We had a great season, and being here at state was one of the best experiences I've ever had," he said. "Our whole team had a great year."
"Brad's been leading us all year," added coach Smith. "His performance today was just what you would expect from a team leader. He's been hitting big shots for us all season."
Payne added that the Cyclones lose just three seniors, and will be tough again next year.
But Boyd wasn't so sure. "We're really going to miss our seniors," he said. "They've been great leaders all year, and we have some big shoes to fill next season."