HURRICANE — Hurricane and Cedar's Region 9 battle was tight for the first three quarters Wednesday night. The fourth quarter, however, belonged to the Tigers.
Hurricane rattled off eight unanswered points in the final period — a deficit the Redmen were unable to erase — on its way to a 51-43 victory. The win was big for the Tigers (6-3, 14-4), as they stayed in the hunt for the region title with Desert Hills, whom they host on Friday.
Hurricane was on top 15-10 after the first quarter, but the Redmen (6-4, 7-10) battled back to tie it at 21 at the half.
Down 30-28 after the third quarter, Cedar tied it at 30 with two Brandon Garrett free throws with 7:26 to go in the fourth before Hurricane scored its eight unanswered points — sparked by a McRae Vaifanua 3-pointer.
"It was huge," Vaifanua said of his team's 8-0 run. "We took the shots we wanted to take and made the extra pass."
"We got great looks in the second half," Hurricane head coach Gordon Dotson said, echoing the sentiment of his junior star. "We attacked the basket. We caused fouls and defensive breakdowns and got easy buckets."
Hurricane's offense was well-balanced against the Redmen. Tyler Hinton led the Tigers with 12, while Jaden Seely and Vaifanua scored nine apiece.
"He has the ability to score a lot," Dotson said of Vaifanua.
In addition to his 3-pointer that started the key Hurricane run, Vaifanua hit 4-4 free throws down the stretch to keep Cedar at bay. The closest Cedar came after the Tigers' outburst was 4 points, 42-38, with 2:48 to go.
Erik Nakken led Cedar's offense with 15 points. Garrett contributed 10 more in the losing cause.
Cedar head coach Craig Cardon credited his team's loss to "bad possessions, turnovers and bad shots."
"If you do that against a good team at their place, you dig yourself a hole," Cardon said. "We turned it over in crucial situations."
"We needed this big," Vaifanua said of the victory, referring to his team's loss to 2-17 Canyon View last Friday. "We don't want to do that again — no more goofing around."
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"We had a hiccup last week," Dotson said of the debacle against the Falcons. "You can't take people lightly."
According to Dotson, any Region 9 team can beat any other region squad on any given night. Most region games are "barn burners" in his mind.
"We control our own destiny if we win out," Dotson said, looking forward to the showdown against the region-leading Thunder Friday. Vaifanua thinks his squad could challenge for the state championship.
"(The) coaches want to put it on us," he said. "It's our season. We want to do the best we can even if we have to sacrifice."