SANDY — When Skip Lowe first saw the brackets for the Jordan Holiday Tournament, he knew right away his East Leopards had a daunting task in front of them.
Despite the difficult odds though, East went out and did what it does best the past five days — win.
After beating Sky View, American Fork and Juan Diego to get to the championship game, the Leopards capped the fantastic week with a 66-64 win over tourney-host Jordan on Monday night.
The four victories extended East’s winning streak to nine straight as it improved to 10-1 this preseason.
“It was a great tournament and I’m really glad we did it over the break, it was a lot of fun,” said Ute commit Parker Van Dyke. “We’ve been kind of feeling it all week, and we’ve been attacking and hitting open shots.”
Van Dyke scored 31 points and scored what proved to be the game-winning pull-up jumper with 20 seconds remaining in the game. He was named the tournament MVP.
Jordan’s Brandon Pasker was outstanding as well in the title game, finishing with 35 points.
As expected, the championship game was tight throughout with 12 lead changes and eight ties.
Jordan threatened to pull away midway through the fourth quarter when four straight free throws by Pasker put the ’Diggers in front 59-53 with 3:09 remaining. That’s when Mitch Grant came up with two huge plays seemingly out of nowhere.
His hustle for a loose ball on East’s ensuing possession resulted in an awkward off-balanced banked shot that cut the lead to 59-55. On East’s next possession he scored on another awkward shot in the paint to cut the lead to 59-57.
“Those were huge and really tough shots, and those got us right back in the game,” said Van Dyke.
Van Dyke tied the game at 59-59 on a pair of free throws with 1:57 remaining, but Pasker responded with a 3-point play to extend the lead to 62-59. Not to be outdone, Van Dyke converted a 3-point play of his own to put the Leopards in front 63-62.
The quality shot-making continued with Pasker giving Jordan a 64-63 lead with 32 seconds remaining, followed by Van Dyke’s pull-up jumper in the lane to give East the 65-64 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
“I trust Parker on the floor with the ball to make good decisions, and he’s either going to take good shots or he’s going to find guys he trusts to do it,” said Lowe.
Jordan had a chance to take the lead with 4.3 seconds left, but it missed both free throws. East responded by making 1 of 2 free throws, and then Chandler Smith’s half-courter at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to play in these tournaments, so we can get this type of feel in pressure games,” said Lowe. “So when we get into league and hopefully we get a chance to do things like this late in February and early March, we’ll be able to draw back from the pressure in this game and know that we can come from behind a little bit and not panic and play through things.”