Mike Terry, Deseret News
OGDEN — Highland's Steven Divver stood at the free-throw line, the Rams' raucous student section going crazy behind him and just 1.6 seconds standing in the way of a victory over Bountiful in the 4A boys championship game. His first shot hit the rim twice before it went in. His second wasn't even close.
And he couldn't care less.
"I was just ready to explode, I couldn't even shoot it," Divver said. "I was just thinking, 'Right after I shoot this, it's time to party.' We've been working so hard for this, and I couldn't believe it was really happening."
Highland came away with a 48-42 victory to secure the title, which was the school's second in a matter of months. Like Timpview did last year, the Rams managed a sweep of the 4A football and basketball titles.
"We've all been playing together since we could walk — in the backyard growing up, then on AAU teams," Divver said. "We didn't even hang out with girls until our junior year because we were playing basketball every weekend. And now to finish together on top is just amazing."
The game was slow. It was choppy. It was low-scoring. There was no discernible flow to it. But as Highland students flooded the floor to celebrate with the team — guys who blend in as a vital part of the student body — head coach Keith West couldn't help but admire the beauty of the scene.
"This is just a lot of fun," West said. "The kids are so supportive, and a thing like this — where they can all come out together and cheer each other on — is a really special opportunity."
Nate Fakahafua overcame early foul trouble — he picked up two quick fouls and sat for most of the first half — and a fourth-quarter leg injury to be on the court when it ended. The senior, who put the football team on his back to win the state title just months ago, scored nine points and hauled in four rebounds in the win.
"It's frustrating when you have to sit on the bench, but I just tried to keep my head in it and work harder once I got back out there," Fakahafua said. "Then I got hurt, but I just iced it and walked it off to get back in the game. I wasn't going to sit out in a game like this."
Orchard added a team-high four assists and had the ball in his hand seemingly all game long. His stats weren't as flashy as they have been in previous games, but the senior almost single-handedly dictated the tempo of the game and kept Bountiful from getting into a rhythm on offense.
"We knew that LaSalle and Williams could go off and take the game over," Divver said. "We tried to play tough defense, and Sam did a great job on offense. He played with a lot of control and kept finding the right guys."
Orchard made only 5-of-9 free throws, but converted a three-point play early in the fourth quarter that gave the Rams a seven-point lead and swung the momentum their way for good.
LaSalle led Bountiful with 11 points, though he didn't score in the first half. He hit all four of his free throws and one 3-pointer to go with two steals. Williams finished with 10 points, including a put-back layup midway through the fourth quarter that cut Highland's lead to 37-32.
The Braves, though, couldn't capitalize as Orchard, Evans and Fakahafua combined for 14 fourth-quarter points to squash any chance of a Braves rally. As a team, Highland shot 55 percent from the field compared to only 35 percent by Bountiful.
Outside of Highland's big three, the Divver brothers once again came up big for the Rams, as Steven finished with six points and David came off the bench to put up 10 points on the strength of three 3-pointers. Their most important contribution, though, isn't something you can read in the box score — it's their willingness to fight for loose balls, take charges, tie up bigger guys for jump-balls and the fact that they never back down on defense.
"They just do what it takes to win," West said. "I know that they'll do anything I ask them to do, and they work really hard. People are so worried about Sam and Nate and Lew that they forget we have other guys who can hit shots. They took advantage of that today."
Highland's Liam Thomas chipped in five points, four rebounds and a steal in the win.
4A Boys All-Tournament Team
MVP — Lew Evans, Highland
Dillon Salazar, Bountiful
Sam Orchard, Highland
Nate Fakahafua, Highland
Austin Bankowski, Woods Cross
Colton College, Lehi