Boys basketball: Scoring balance and defense keying Bonneville’s 8-0 start
BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner
WASHINGTON TERRACE — There was a moment in last Friday’s Bonneville-Ogden boys basketball game when the Lakers led by double digits and coach Kyle Bullinger called for a 30-second timeout.
Bullinger, the tallest person in the huddle, had a rather passionate message for the team that essentially boiled down to the team needing to be better on defense.
Later, the Lakers turned what had been a 10-point game at times to a 20-point game with a few defensive stops and transition buckets helping their cause.
“The best thing that a 6-0 start does is it gives us the opportunity to coach kids hard, it’s a lot easier to correct mistakes when the end result is a victory,” Bullinger said after practice last week when the Lakers were 6-0.
“We can be a lot more honest with them in film sessions, we can be a lot more straightforward in our expectations in practice, that’s the benefit. But … coaches and players understand we can go into region 6-5. Our schedule is full of good teams, it doesn’t get easier.”
Fast forward a couple of games and the vocal timeouts are probably sticking around. The Lakers are 8-0, off to their best start since the 2015-16 season when they started 8-1.
Bonneville also started 8-1 in 2005-06, but to find a better start than that would require an afternoon looking at school yearbooks.
The Lakers have their usual stifling defense this year and that’s going to be their strength, but Bullinger said the thing keying the team’s good start right now is scoring balance.
Two players, Carson Jones and Koy Dixon, average double-figure scoring. Bo Dixon has three double-digit scoring games this year and Joe Tesch had 19 points Friday in the win over Ogden.
Add in some double-digit games by Jake Williams and Miwa Brown, and that makes six different Lakers who’ve scored 10 or more in a game through the first seven games.
“So it’s been fun to watch how selfless our kids are offensively,” Bullinger said.
Then, of course, there’s the defense that’s been known to frustrate opposing coaches to the point of screaming and slamming a chair on the floor.
Through the first seven games, the Lakers allowed an average of 44.1 points per game, up there with 5A’s top defensive teams in Orem and Payson.
Bonneville hasn’t played what one would call a gauntlet of offensive teams, but they’re still playing the type of defensive style they’ve played the past few years, and that’s in spite of some inexperience — four new starters — early on.
“We’re inexperienced, but Koy Dixon’s been in our program for four years, Carson Jones has been in there for four, Bo (Dixon’s) been in there for three, so I think the fact that a lot of contributors were up as ninth graders, I think that that really helps, I think they understand how we expect practices to be run, I think they understand how to prepare for games and I think that’s bleeding over to our other kids,” Bullinger said.
Koy Dixon, a senior guard, said the team’s on-ball defense and help defense have been really good this year. Those are things they work on, along with taking charges, which the team did at the end of last Thursday’s practice.
“To us that’s bigger than hitting a 3, that’s bigger than anything you can do offensively, so taking a charge is a big deal. We do that, it’ll change the momentum,” he said.
For the record, Koy Dixon said that the first two players on the team who are likely to take a charge in a game are Jones and Bo Dixon. Jones, by the way, is still wearing a knee brace after his football injury.
“It says what a team player he is,” Koy Dixon said of Jones, a senior forward.
The program’s region title drought is 18 years, and while the current start will make Bonneville one of the teams to beat come January and February by virtue of the good win-loss record, it won’t make anything easier in what’s expected to once again be a difficult Region 5 campaign for teams to navigate.
Like Bullinger said, what the good start does is allow the coaches to be more direct.
“Credit to the kids for being able to, while we’re still figuring out things, come out on a winning end against some good teams,” he said.
Bonneville’s had plenty of heartbreak in the playoffs in recent years, including the state semifinals in 2019, a close loss to Brighton in 2020 and last year’s run to the quarterfinals.
The program’s now in such a spot where it expects to be playing in late February and early March, Bullinger said.
“That’s not something that you just think about and it comes to fruition, it comes from tough practices in November and December, it comes through overcoming difficult stretches of January and February when we drop a couple of games. But the one thing I love about this group is when you talk to them, their confidence about what they think our team can be, it never wanes,” Bullinger said.
That confidence, by the way, was very evident from Koy Dixon, who feels the Lakers are capable of making a run to the state championship.