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Boys basketball: Cruz Taylor propels Skyline past Pocatello on emotional night

Skyline’s Cruz Taylor pushes down court as Skyline High School takes on Pocatello High School in the opening round of the 4A boys basketball District 5-6 tournament on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | @LukeORoark
Loroark@postregister.com

Sometimes, sports can be our greatest healer.

Just five days after the death of his cousin, Camden, Skyline guard Cruz Taylor garnered 10 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals in a 42-27 win over Pocatello in Tuesday’s 4A District 5-6 opening round game at Skyline’s gym.

The Taylor family held a funeral service for Camden prior to Skyline’s matchup with Pocatello. Camden died Thursday, Feb. 8 due to a sudden brain aneurysm. He was 14.

“He’s a heck of a player, heck of a kid,” Pocatello coach Joe Green said of Cruz. “For those guys to go through what they’re going through and, for Cruz to come out and play like that, it’s inspirational and he was an inspiration to his team. Outside of basketball, we love those guys. They do a great job and our hearts are aching for them.”

Skyline’s Danny Webb hits a two-pointer as Skyline High School takes on Pocatello High School in the opening round of the 4A boys basketball District 5-6 tournament on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Easton Taylor, Camden’s older brother, also played Tuesday. He finished 0-for-1 from the field Tuesday night.

But it was Cruz’s fancy passing — one play saw the sophomore fake behind-the-pass on a fastbreak before assisting Jo Bates with a quick underhand pass across his body — and quick drives to the hoop, that propelled Skyline on an emotional night.

“Honestly, I was pretty low,” said Cruz, as the Grizzlies wore warm-up shirts with Camden’s initials on them. “He’s my cousin and everything, but we have great friends and a great family and community supporting us.”

Skyline, as a collective, played some of its best basketball this season Tuesday night.

After a competitive first half, which saw Pocatello trail 21-16, the Grizzlies held the Indians to just two points during the third quarter to help snap a four-game losing streak heading into the 4A District 5-6 tournament.

Pocatello had more turnovers (4) than points (2) during the third, as it struggled to break Skyline’s half-court trap. Pocatello — who was led by Tyler Olson’s seven points — finished with 15 turnovers.

“I didn’t feel we were shooting the ball really well so I felt like we pressured them a little bit to speed the game up and get some easier looks at the basket,” Skyline coach Clint Cornish said. “And I thought that’s where the game turned a little bit.

“For as much emotion (Cruz)’s had to spend today, and Easton too, these aren’t things kids are normally used to dealing with and maybe they’re better with dealing with them than adults,” Cornish added.

Pocatello’s Isaac Brown is guarded by Skyline’s Jael Garcia as Skyline High School takes on Pocatello High School in the opening round of the 4A boys basketball District 5-6 tournament on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Bates finished the night with 10 points and six rebounds and Webb added eight points and 10 rebounds during the win. All eight of Webb’s points came in the first quarter.

Pocatello hung around throughout, as it cut into Skyline’s double-digit lead to nine (33-24) with 5:26 to play, but the Indians never came closer.

“It’s just about being focused and when you come in playing a team like (Pocatello), sometimes you’re just going through the motions,” Webb said. “So sometimes you just have to focus on the little things and we did that tonight.”

Skyline certainly did the little things Tuesday, like each teammate giving the other a hug in the locker room late after fans left. No. 3 Skyline will play Thursday at No. 2 Idaho Falls in the semifinal round.

No. 6 Pocatello plays at No. 4 Century Thursday in a loser out game.

SKYLINE 42, POCATELLO 27

Pocatello 8 8 2 9 — 27

Skyline 13 8 11 10 — 42

POCATELLO (27) — Isaac Brown 4, Jadyn Browns 2, Tyler Olson 7, Matthew Ney 1, Kobee Gunter 6, Payton Cleaves 2, Kaden Hales 4, Jadon Marley 1. FG: 9. FT: 7-11. 3-pointers: 2 (Gunter 2). Total fouls: 16. Fouled out: none.

SKYLINE (42) — Cruz Taylor 10, Jo Bates 10, Brennan Archibald 3, Jael Garcia 5, Brayden Jensen 2, Danny Webb 8, Jaden Landes 3, Tanner Thomason 1. FG: 15. FT: 10-19. 3-pointers: 2 (C. Taylor 1, Archibald 1). Total fouls: 15. Fouled out: none.

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