High school boys basketball: Tigers tighten grip on Region 8 lead
Tom Smart, Deseret News
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OREM — On the last day of January, Orem High's boys basketball team went out and realistically won the Region 8 championship.
Facing second-place Provo, a team it beat by 11 points in the first region go-around, Orem dominated on both ends of the court en route to an impressive 82-65 victory Tuesday night.
The Tigers shot 59 percent from the field and never trailed as they buried the visitors by building a 22-point halftime lead.
"The key tonight was to come out and have a good start, the past few games we've come out slow and we've had to battle to the very end, but I thought our guys did good coming to play from the get go," said Orem big man Dalton Nixon.
There was plenty of incentive to avoid another slow start — a title.
"My speech before the game was this is for a championship," said Orem coach Golden Holt. "Probably whoever wins this game is in the driver's seat for the back half of the season, so I said let's go play for a championship and see if we're ready for state."
Even though there's six games remaining in region play, at 8-0 the Tigers have opened up a two-game lead on Provo and a three-game lead on Springville. With such a cushion, it would take a significant collapse for 4A's top-ranked team not to claim the Region 8 title in late February.
Orem had four players score in double figures, led by Josh Pollard's 21 points and 18 from Nixon. Typically poised point guard Zach Hunsaker was solid again with 16 points, with Cooper Holt chipping in with 12 off the bench.
"This is a special team from the standpoint we don't talk about how many points anyone gets. On a given night, any of our seven or eight guys can get 20. Tonight was Josh Pollard, who's been dictating rebounding and assists the last few games," said coach Holt. "It's just fun to see four or five guys in double figures."
For long stretches Orem could do no wrong, shooting 69 percent in the first half and 63 percent through the third quarter before coach Holt started subbing out some of his starters. The Tigers' largest lead was 75-50 with 4:50 remaining in the game.
Orem did all of this with leading scorer Jordan Darger dealing with foul trouble as he finished with just three points.
Provo had a pretty good shooting night of its own at 47 percent, but 17 turnovers and long stretches of bad defense were far too much to overcome.
"Our length gets in passing lanes, and what looks like a pass they can make oftentimes is deflected, and I think that happened a little bit in the first half tonight," said Holt.
In the loss, Provo's Dallin Bosco had another solid game, scoring 25 points and knocking down four 3-pointers. It was the lone bright spot for the Bulldogs, whose six-game winning streak came to an emphatic end.