ST. GEORGE — Desert Hills is no stranger to taking a team's best shot. It comes with the territory of being ranked No. 1 all year.
That was certainly the case Thursday morning at Dixie State College.
Playing a near-perfect first half, underdog Ben Lomond was tied with Desert Hills at the break, looking poised for the upset. As often happens though in a tournament setting, the favorite methodically pulls away.
Desert Hills did just that with a dominant second half en route to the 55-41 victory over Ben Lomond in the first 3A quarterfinal.
"We didn't rebound like we needed to, and we were giving them second-chance points," said Desert Hills guard Brandon Simister. "We didn't play our best ball in the first half, but we made some adjustments at halftime and I thought we played a lot better."
With the victory, Desert Hills advances to Friday night's semifinals and will face region rival Dixie at 7:30 p.m.
"We have our two leading scorers who don't even get close to double figures, and our other kids stepped up. That's pretty hard to beat," said Desert Hills coach Steve Melessa.
Early on, Ben Lomond had a great formula for success — crash the boards.
Scots' guards Sterling Brandley and Nate Watkins did a great job getting into the lane throughout the first half, which put Desert Hills out of rebounding position when the shots didn't fall. Ben Lomond grabbed seven offensive rebounds in the first half, finishing with eight second-chance points. The Scots shot 42 percent in the process.
In the second half the shots weren't falling, as Ben Lomond shot just 15 percent.
"More than anything, we made our shots in the first half. Even in the second half we got the shots we wanted to get, they just kept rimming out," said Ben Lomond coach Ryan Wilcox.
It didn't help either that leading scorer Josh Hardin dealt with foul trouble most of the game. He scored nine points in the first quarter, but only finished with 11.
As frustrating as the loss was, advancing to the quarterfinals was a great accomplishment for the Scots.
"I think we came and represented our school really well. Ben Lomond hasn't been to this point, the quarterfinals, in 12 years," Wilcox said.
Desert Hills dealt with foul troubles of its own, a big reason Simister's contribution of just four points and one assist was so low.
"Brandon Simister probably sat more (today) than he has in all three years," said Melessa.
Despite playing the first half tentatively, Melessa was pleased with how his players responded in the second half, something they've done all year.
"This has been our team really all year long, we've been pretty consistent where we've had a quarter here or there where we haven't played really well, but the kids just stayed with it, stayed with it. We've won a lot of ball games this year," he said.
Jace Wade made great contributions off the bench as well for Desert Hills, chipping in a career-high 11 points.
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