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Cameron Smith

Rematch of 100-point blowout includes packed stands, NBA vet

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

The first time, the final score was 108-3, getting national attention here and elsewhere around the web. The rematch was a lot closer thanks to recognizable school pride and a helping assist from one of the tallest men to ever play in the NBA.

According to the Deseret News, just weeks after Christian Heritage (Utah) Academy routed West Ridge (Utah) Academy by more than 100 points, West Ridge responded with a full gym of screaming fans, much tougher defense and a more reasonable, if similar result. The final score of the two teams' final matchup of the season Thursday night was 62-7, a lopsided loss but one which was still a full 50 points in the right direction for an Eagles team whose spirit has been described as "inspiring."

In fact, that spirit has been described as inspiring by a pretty qualified pair of basketball eyes, too. After the first blowout, former NBA tree, Philadelphia hype machine, center Shawn Bradley worked out with the West Ridge girls team at a few practices, helping guide it through drills and fine tune its defense. Bradley, who previously served as West Ridge Academy's athletic director and vice president, was also in attendance at the rematch, smiling at the teams' effort even as another insurmountable deficit piled up.

Yet, even though West Ridge entered knowing that it was headed toward another lopsided loss, the Eagles made monumental strides forward from the earlier notable loss. Christian Heritage led just 12-3 at the end of the first quarter, much better than the 25-0 deficit West Ridge faced after a quarter in January.

"We had a different game plan," West Ridge coach Jamie Keefer told the News. "The girls fought hard. I'm just glad it's over."

After being inundated with complaints and claims of a lack of sportsmanship in the first game, Christian Heritage also approached the teams' final 2010-11 matchup with other goals than simply racking up points.

Heritage coach Rob McGill, whose comments after the blowout were criticized by many, admitted that he instructed his players to put a special emphasis on 3-pointers in the easy victory. The result was both a win and a way to get in additional needed practice with some of the team's less traditional offensive sets.

"It's hard when you can't play your normal game," McGill told the News. "But we had fun."

In fact, that seemed to be the most significant development of the rematch: Unlike the first game, where both teams and fans seemed pained by developments, everyone in attendance Thursday genuinely seemed to leave West Ridge's gym feeling good about the way the game unfolded.

"These girls have never played with this type of crowd and cheering before," West Ridge Academy's executive director Ken Allen told the News of the school's bleachers, which were completely filled before the game tipped off. "There are usually about 10 people at their games."

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