The Emery High boys' basketball team started off their Christmas vacation on the right foot Dec. 21 by beating a scrappy Tooele team 43-40.
The story of the game was big plays at important times. Senior center Travis Barnett rallied his team with big plays while Seth Powell was steady throughout the game and several players like Pete Nielson hit big shots to give the Spartans the win.
The first gut-check by the Spartans came while trailing 15-8 in the second quarter. Emery started going inside to Barnett and he answered, scoring nine straight points and grabbing the lead 17-15. Bowie Jeffs grabbed a couple of steals during the run as Emery's defense stiffened in the second quarter.
The Buffaloes were able to score only five points in the quarter and Emery jumped out to a 24-17 lead.
The Spartans extended their lead in the third quarter thanks to their defense. They held Tooele to only eight points in that quarter.
On the other end, Powell hit one 3-pointer and Nielson hit two and Emery led 33-25 heading into the final frame.
The Buffaloes put on a run at the Spartans and eventually grabbed the lead at 37-36 with 3:17 left.
But once again, the Spartans answered with 6'7" Barnett. He grabbed an offensive rebound and scored while being clobbered in the head. He made the free throw and Emery led 39-37.
Tooele tied the score with a couple of free throws, but Jeffs made a driving basket to reclaim the lead for Emery 41-39.
An Emery foul gave Tooele the chance to tie the score again, but Tooele only converted one free throw so Emery led 41-40 with 1:11 remaining.
The Spartans ran a spread offense and ran the clock down to 24 seconds before the Buffaloes fouled Jeffs. He calmly stepped to the line and drained both shots to give Emery a 43-40 lead.
Tooele couldn't make another shot and although Emery missed two free throws in the last eight seconds, they held on for the win.
Barnett was clearly the leader in the game, scoring 15 points, pulling down eight rebounds, swatting four shots, and getting three steals and three assists.
Powell got 11 points and four assists; Jeffs had seven points and three assists; Nielson had six points and four rebounds; and Brandon Hansen scored four points, pulled down six rebounds, got four steals, and was very active on both ends of the court.
The win was a team effort with Barnett filling the leader's role. But Emery has had different leaders in almost every game. As they enter region play, the roles will become more defined and Emery should be a very solid team.
The Spartans play at home Saturday against the top-ranked 2-A team Manti. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Spartan Center.