OGDEN — In a rematch of the 4A football title game, which Highland won 37-36 in double overtime, the Rams took on Mountain Crest in the first round of the state basketball tournament. The result was the same as it was on the gridiron, with one small difference.
The basketball game wasn't nearly as close.
The Rams started slowly then cruised to a 59-41 blowout win to advance to the second round, where they will face Payson on Thursday.
"We just pushed the football stuff aside and tried to come out and play hard," Highland's Nate Fakahafua said. "It's a whole different atmosphere here. We had some big defensive stops in the second half and came out on top."
Highland's big three of Fakahafua, Sam Orchard and Lew Evans each scored 13 points to lead the Rams. Fakahafua pulled down 11 rebounds and dished five assists while making all five of his free-throw attempts.
Orchard provided late offense with two fourth-quarter threes that hit nothing but net, while Evans chipped in nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal in the win.
When the Rams really needed a lift, though, it was David Divver who came through. Mountain Crest took the lead twice during the game, and the sophomore responded with big shots each time. Divver hit two consecutive threes to start off the second quarter, then hustled out a second-chance bucket before nabbing a steal for a breakaway layup after the Mustangs had taken a 33-30 lead in the third period.
Highland ended the game on a 29-8 run, while Divver finished with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
"David's a really good offensive player, and if you leave him alone he's going to hit some shots," Highland coach Keith West said. "He's a sophomore and will make some mistakes out there, but he gave us a lift on the offensive end."
For Mountain Crest, Alex Kuresa and Faimafili Laulu-Pututau's ability to get to the hoop kept the Mustangs in the game early on. Kuresa finished with 16 points, while Laulu-Pututau had 12 points and six rebounds. Tyler Crosbie added eight points and four steals.
Notably missing for the Mustangs was Troy Pickett, who entered the contest averaging more than 13 points per game. Pickett played, but finished with only three points in 23 minutes before fouling out.
The Rams owned the paint and the perimeter, grabbing 39 rebounds and hitting seven 3-pointers. Mountain Crest had only 24 rebounds and went 0-for-14 from beyond the arc.2 comments on this story
Highland's win capped a glorious first round for Region 6, with all four squads—Olympus, Bountiful, Woods Cross and Highland—securing spots in the quarterfinals.
"That just shows how tough our region was this year," Fakahafua said. "We had a bunch of good games this season, and I think that really prepared us for the playoffs."
Highland's game against Payson on Thursday will begin at 4 p.m. at Weber State University's Dee Events Center.