SALT LAKE CITY — Highland sure picked the right time to go on a winning streak.
After dropping two of their last three games of the regular season, the fourth-seeded Rams have now won three in a row, including a shocking 74-64 victory over No. 1 seed Timpview in the first round of the 4A playoffs Monday night at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
“We didn’t worry about that too much,” Highland coach Keith West said of his team's late-season struggles. “We thought our region was really good this year, and we think Timpview is a really good team. But we also felt like we matched up pretty well.”
The Rams came out firing and opened the game on a 15-9 run over the first eight minutes.
Highland continued its hot start in the second quarter. It ended the first half on a commanding 18-3 tear and outscored the Region 6 champs 26-13 in the second quarter to take a double-digit lead at the break.
“That was huge for us to finish strong like that,” said West. “That’s the momentum of basketball. They came at us with some pretty good pressure, but I thought we did pretty well. I don’t know if we scored 41 in a half all year.”
The Rams shot the lights out in the first half, especially from deep, as they torched the T-Birds with six 3-pointers while shooting an impressive 57 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, Timpview came out a little flat and struggled on both sides of the ball. The T-Birds were held to just 35 percent shooting, including a dismal 27 percent from 3-point land, in the opening half as they watched Highland take control of the game.
Timpview finally started to get its offense rolling in the second half, but the Rams continued their strong shooting performance to extend their lead to 24 points with just less than 13:00 left in the game.
The T-Birds had a 12-0 push at the end of the third quarter and into the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to trim their deficit to just 10 points, but after a couple of quick Highland timeouts, the Rams regrouped.
“I just told them to relax. The keys for us were to defend, rebound, take good shots and to not turn the ball over,” West said. “We felt like we rushed a couple shots and got a little individual. That was the biggest thing — we just needed to play our game.”
Brandon Warr’s long two-point jumper from the top of the key put an end to Timpview’s run and helped the Rams find a rhythm once again.
The T-Birds gave it everything they had in the second half, but their 19-point halftime deficit was just too much to come back from as the Rams held on for the stunning first-round upset.
With the win, Highland advances to the quarterfinals, where it will take on the No. 3-seeded Olympus Titans Wednesday afternoon at 4:10 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.
“Olympus showed some incredible courage tonight by knocking off a really good Sky View team,” said West. “We just got to come out, take care of the basketball, defend and rebound the ball. It will be a fun game. I think it will be very interesting.”
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sports reporter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724