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HIGHLAND — Coach Quincy Lewis thought his team looked like fifth graders. Senior Brody Berry was a little nervous. T. J. Haws' shots weren't falling and Talon Shumway went to the bench in foul trouble.
For two quarters, it looked like the game the Lone Peak Knights had been dreaming about for weeks was going to turn into a nightmare.
"You just have to trust your teammates," said junior guard Nick Emery, who finished with a team-high 20 points in Lone Peak's 55-40 victory over American Fork Friday night in Highland. "They got in the passing lanes in the first half and that made it harder to run our offense. It was huge for us to go back East and play against those teams. That's AF. All the hype was there, but you have to get on that even keel. You gotta keep your composure all game; the next one is going in."
The Lone Peak gym was packed two hours before the varsity game tipped off. It was loud, raucous and the kind of hard-fought game that makes standing the whole game worthwhile.
It did not, however, begin well for Lone Peak. American Fork led the entire first quarter and the teams traded leads in the second half. The Cavemen owned a 23-21 lead at halftime.
"I thought they really executed well," said Lewis. "We had to try some different things just to get them off balance. We finally found something at the end of the third quarter."
The Knights looked frustrated and harried most of the first half, but still managed to keep the game within reach thanks to Emery.
"In the first half, we acted like we were in fifth grade, playing Junior Jazz, just running around," Lewis said, laughing. "We played smarter in the second half and got what we wanted."
Lewis said the fact the Knights, especially Emery and Haws, were able to hit 3-point shots throughout the game kept the game within reach even when the team struggled defensively. While his players missed some long-range shots, he said they are playmakers and that's what they're going to do.
In the third quarter, momentum swung in favor of the Knights. Haws hit the first three at 5:01, then center Chase Hansen hit a 3-pointer at 3:01 to put the Knights within two points of American Fork's lead. Caveman Austin Waddoups answered with a 3-pointer and Emery followed that with a 3-point shot. Then Haws hit a jumper to tie the game at 34-34 at the end of three quarters.
"Those are the kind of players that they are. Sometimes you're going to scratch your head and swallow a little bit when they miss, but they're going to make a few of those too."
At halftime the team calmly talked about what was working and what was not. Part of the problems was American Fork's fast-paced, high-flying game plan.
The Cavemen tried to slow the game down in the third quarter and Lewis said he thought that actually helped Lone Peak, which switched from zone in the first half to man in the third and then back to zone in the fourth quarter.
"I thought we were just a little bit tired at that time, and I think it did a couple of things for us," said Lewis. "It allowed us to catch our breath and our legs. It made us a little bit sharper on our rotations in the zone. They still got some shots, but they missed them. Sometimes it's that simple."
American Fork had balanced scoring with Zac Hunter, Waddoups and Quincy Bair each scoring eight points. Marcel Davis and Ryan Andrus added six points each.
Haws finished with 15 points, while Shumway had nine, Hansen seven and Berry four.
Berry said the energy the Cavemen played with in those first few minutes was worrisome.1 comment on this story
"At the beginning, they were knocking everything down," he said. "I was thinking, 'Oh no. What's going on?' But it's a long game and we've been in that situation before. I knew we'd come back from it. I was still really nervous though. They're a good team."
Both players and coach appreciated the atmosphere the rivalry game offers.
"We look forward to this game," said Emery. "We work all season for these types of games … where everyone is going crazy. It's awesome."
Adds Berry, "It means a lot to go into region 3-0, but we just have to be ready when we go down there. It will be more packed and crazy."