SANDY — East advanced to the championship game of the Jordan Holiday Tournament with a hard-fought 61-55 win over Juan Diego.
Parker Van Dyke led the Leopards with a game-high 26 points. He made some clutch plays down the stretch to keep the relentless Eagles at bay.
Juan Diego was led by Gabe Colosimo and his team-high 23 points — 15 of which came in the fourth quarter when he helped stage a furious comeback bid.
“(Colosimo) is a great scorer and that’s what great scorers do for their teams,” said East coach Skip Lowe. “You just expect that sort of play from him and fortunately we did enough to come out of here with a win.”
East isn’t without its own great player in Van Dyke, who did his best to answer every challenge thrown his team’s way. The Utah Ute signee scored 11 of his points in the final period while managing Juan Diego’s press well from the point guard position.
“Parker just played like we’re used to seeing him play,” Lowe said. “He’s obviously a great player and led us like he has all year. He‘s everything you could hope for as a coach.”
The game was tight throughout the first half with East scoring the final five points to take a 30-25 lead at the break. The Leopards built an 11-point advantage late in the third quarter before the Eagles closed with the final four points to trail 42-35 entering the fourth.
East maintained at least a six-point margin throughout most of the fourth until Juan Diego cut the lead to 56-53 with just under two minutes remaining. From that point, East buckled down, hit its free throws and made key defensive stops. Six-foot-9 center Peter Barrus led the defensive effort with two key blocks under the basket in the fourth.
“It was a good team effort for us, but (Barrus) was particularly good and he just keeps on improving,” Lowe said. “He’s going to be a big key for us this year if he keeps improving and keeps playing defense like he is.”
Barrus chipped in five points with Mitch Grant and John Fakahafua adding 13 and 10 points, respectively. With the win East advances to the tournament final against host Jordan.
“We feel good about how we’re playing and it’s great to beat a team like Juan Diego — a team we’ve now played twice,” Lowe said. “Juan Diego is a team that is going to do some real damage this year and they gave us all we can handle, but this was a great challenge for us and we got through it and sneak out of here with a win.”