SALT LAKE CITY — Parker Van Dyke couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn in the first half of Tuesday night’s East-Highland rivalry game at the packed house of the Highland Rams (7-2, 14-7). But oh boy was Van Dyke and his team's fourth quarter a fascination to behold.
His East Leopards (5-4, 16-6) used a 23-9 edge in the fourth quarter to pull out an amazing 64-55 victory.
Van Dyke went straight nuts in the second half, scoring 17 of his team-high 23 points to lift the Leopards.
“They were giving me open shots and I knocked them down,” said Van Dyke about his second-half outburst. “This was a really big win against our rival Highland — against a really good team — going into the tournament.”
Van Dyke really heated up as he found his shooting stroke late in the third quarter. Van Dyke ended the period with a sweet crossover atop the key, which allowed him to pull up on a dime at the free-throw line for a shot. It swished just before the buzzer sounded.
Highland went into the fourth leading 46-41, but Van Dyke was just getting warmed up.
He hit two consecutive 3-pointers straight out of the gate to put East up 47-46.
The Leopards' first four field goals of the fourth were all 3-pointers. The trend continued as Connor Pardoe got into the action lining up a trey from long range. On the following possession Mitch Grant drilled a 3 to put East up 53-49. A little later, another Van Dyke jumper put East up 57-49 with three minutes left in the game as the Leopards' contagious shooting led to a 16-3 run.
“We came out with all those 3-pointers and they (Highland) weren’t quite in the flow that they had once been. Momentum is a funny thing,” said East High head coach Skip Lowe.
Van Dyke’s weaving in and out of the Rams' defense also led to many shots for his teammates. “We really were pushing in transition, and the times they did attack me, I was able to pass out to open shooters,” said Van Dyke.
The packed crowd was constantly fueling the Rams through the first three quarters, especially early in the third, as the Rams opened with a 9-1 run to go up 38-32. The Rams led the majority of the third — much to the delight of their roaring fans, who had no idea of the onslaught that would be coming their way in the fourth.
Meanwhile, Van Dyke wasn’t the only one that played great for East on Tuesday. Grant had himself a productive game, hitting four 3-pointers for 14 points. Pardoe finished with six points on the night. Jake Bero-Vanwagoner shot his way to seven points, while John Fakahafua scored six points down low.
“With a rivalry game anything can happen, but we had the ability to come back late,” said Lowe.