CEDAR CITY — It didn’t start out very pretty, but the Emery Spartans got the job done.
After shaking off some rust in the first quarter, the Region 15 team defeated Waterford, 51-33, in the 2A boys quarterfinal at Southern Utah University Thursday morning.
“I thought we were a little bit ragged the first game out in a big arena,” Emery coach Todd Jeffs said, “but we responded well.”
For much of the first eight minutes, Waterford, the fourth seed out of Region 14, looked as if it was in position to stage another upset. The Ravens earned a spot in the quarterfinals after defeating top-seeded Enterprise a week ago.
Emery led by just five points, 18-13, at the end of a fast-paced first quarter but, with a slew of steals and fast-break points, had extended its lead to 15 points by the end of the half.
“That’s what we do, we’re a little scattered anyway,” Jeffs said. “Offensively, we were a little shaky. We missed some free throws that we should have made; we missed some layups that we should have put in. But we did a pretty good job defensively.”
Much of the defensive effort was centered on stopping Waterford’s Mufi Hunt. The sophomore center touched the ball nearly every time down the court, finished with 13 points, and hit 7 of 8 free throws.
“(He is) a phenomenal athlete, a handful to defend,” Jeffs said. “I think our initial defense was good, but he got some offense rebounds, some put backs he’s a nice player.”
Combating Hunt on the inside was the Spartans’ combination of seniors Dawson Jensen and Corbin Barnett. Jensen scored eight points but was restricted to the bench due to foul trouble, opening the floor for Barnett.
“Corbin doesn’t play that much,” Jeffs said of the center who also had eight points. “Normally we play Dawson, and he was in foul trouble early and often, so Corbin came in and did a nice job.”
Guard Bailey Faimalo scored 13 points to lead the Spartans, who advance to the semifinal game Friday at 7 p.m.
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.