Orem assistant coach Greg Sheide hates zone defenses. If he had his way the Tigers would never play zone.
However, after Orem beat Kearns 48-37 on Wednesday night spurred on by a suffocating 1-2-2 match-up zone defense, even he acknowledged it was a terrific strategic move.
“We were getting a kick out of it because he actually said at the end of the game, ‘I’ll never say it again but the zone worked tonight,’” said Orem head coach Golden Holt. “You do what you have to do to win.”
Orem’s defense limited Kearns to just 25 percent shooting, even though it did conceded 13 offensive rebounds as it couldn’t always get a body on a body.
Holt said the approached deviated from the norm for Orem, but that was fine with him.
“We pride ourselves in being a really good man defensive team, and yet in preparation for Kearns and their personnel we went to our little 1-2-2 match-up zone the entire game and I thought that was the difference in the game,” said Holt. “They really struggled to get in any rhythm offensively because we were where they were. It was a bit of a change up. You have a little time at state to make those adjustments, and I thought our defense won the game tonight.”
Orem’s zone actually got progressively tighter as Kearns’ 3-point shooting percentage went down. In the first half Kearns made 4 of 11, but in the second half it made just 1 of 7 finishing the game 5 of 18.
The zone defense served another more subtle purpose for Orem.
“What I was concerned about was stopping their ball penetration because that’s what their whole group does really well, and in trying to stop their ball penetration, getting in foul trouble,” said Holt. “So the zone protects you a little bit from that zone penetration, there’s a couple layers they’ve got to get through. So I thought they were hesitant or really patient the whole night.”
Big man Richard Harward still ended up fouling out after just 10 minutes on the floor, but Orem’s guards never got in foul trouble trying to top dribble penetration.