HIGHLAND — American Fork's boys' basketball team is probably still trying to figure out what happened Friday night.
Clinging to a one-point lead over top-ranked Lone Peak midway through the third quarter, the Cavemen seemed poised to avenge an earlier loss to the Knights. Six minutes later, Lone Peak led by 18 points.
That clinical and decisive 19-0 run seemed to happen in a blink of an eye, but it reiterated why Lone Peak is the best team in Utah as it held off American Fork, 63-56, in front of a standing-room only crowd on the Knights' home floor.
Lone Peak clinched the outright Region 4 title with the victory, and the players were mobbed by most of their peers at half court in celebration after the final whistle.
"There's good teams in our region — that's a heck of an accomplishment for our guys to be able to win it against those kind of teams," said Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis.
American Fork is the best of the rest in Region 4, but it can't seem to figure out how to get over the hump against Lone Peak.
In their previous meeting in mid-January, the game was tied heading into the fourth quarter, but Lone Peak emphatically pulled away for the 15-point victory. Friday's run was eerily similar.
Trailing 30-29 with four minutes left in the third, the Knights closed the quarter on a 13-0 run. Nick Emery and T.J. Haws opened the fourth with back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the lead to 48-30.
"We came out struggling in first half, turned the ball over a bit, didn't execute. The third quarter we came out and wanted to execute and played like a team," said Emery, one of three Lone Peak players in double figures with 17 points.
A defensive adjustment played a big part in the outcome as well. With starting guard Brody Berry picking up his third foul early in the third quarter, Lewis tried protecting his starter by switching to a zone defense. The switch limited the penetration ability of American Fork guard Marcel Davis, and conversely the Cavemen started settling for jump shots.
That played right into Lone Peak's hands, which loves to get out and run.
"When we first went to the zone, there were some long rebounds and that led to transition," said Lewis. "Our tempo, once we get the ball moving up and down the court, it's obviously tough to handle."
As quickly as Lone Peak built the lead, however, it began to slip away.
Trailing 50-32 with six minutes remaining in the game, American Fork finally started knocking down some shots and capitalized on a few Lone Peak turnovers to whittle the deficit to 54-49 with 2:49 left.
After seemingly trying to give the game away, Lone Peak finally settled down and scored on its next three positions to extend the lead back to double digits.11 comments on this story
"That's a great win. We know that if teams make a run, if we stay in there we're fine," said Emery. "We don't have to worry about them coming back."
While Emery had himself another big game, Haws finished with 19 points and senior Justin Hamilton chipped in with 18 on senior night.
Late in the game, Haws came up with a huge offensive rebound, which helped sway momentum back Lone Peak's way. It was typical of Haws, who Lewis called "sneaky good."
Davis led all scorers with 21 points in the loss, but like his teammates he's probably wondering how a share of the region championship slipped away so quickly.