WEST JORDAN — The Copper Hills Grizzlies had two stretches of near-perfect basketball Friday night, but they still almost lost their Region 3 battle at home to the Herriman Mustangs.
Colton Neff scored 14 points and Aric Flitton added 11, including a free throw with 17 seconds left that proved to be the difference in the Grizzlies' 51-50 victory.
With the win, Copper Hills improves to 8-7 overall and 3-3 in region play.
With six games to go, the Grizzlies are in fourth place and their hope for a berth in next month’s 5A state tournament is still alive.
With 1:20 left in the game, the Grizzlies were up nine. However, the final 80 seconds was like a bad dream, said Copper Hills coach Kent Smith, and Herriman’s Francis Bernard was a big reason for it.
The sophomore guard scored nine of his 12 points in that span, including three free throws, a four-point play and two more charity shots that narrowed the gap to 50-48.
Herriman was then forced to foul and Flitton nailed just 1-of-2 free throws, which gave Herriman a chance. The Mustangs set up a play and guard Tanner McKissick, the team’s top three-point shooter, was open at the top of the key, but his shot missed.
And, even though Herriman got the rebound and scored, the clock ran out with the Mustangs one point short.
“We got the shot we wanted,” said Herriman coach Brad Tingey, whose team dropped to 6-8 overall and 1-5 in region. “If I have Tanner open to take three-point shots at the top of the key, I’ll take it every time. He may have missed this one, but he’ll get the next one.”
The Mustangs never led in the game. They made just 1-of-13 shots in the first quarter in falling behind 11-0. They would have been shut out after the first eight minutes if not for McKissick’s driving layup in the final seconds.
Copper Hills took advantage of Herriman’s cold streak.
The Grizzlies grabbed the momentum in front of their home crowd as Flitton nailed a pair of 3-pointers and Anthony Fillmore added another in the opening period. For the game, Copper Hills shot 51 percent from the field, including 50 percent (7-of-14) from three-point land.
The Grizzlies’ best effort actually came in the fourth period, though. After Herriman trimmed the margin to 31-27, the Grizzlies rebuilt the lead, due in large part to some fine passing that made their coach proud.
“That may have been the best we’ve played all year,” Smith said. “We are the classic of inconsistency, but I’m hoping we take that and build on it.”
Copper Hills had layups on five straight possessions, thanks to crisp passing from each player. That helped build the lead to 46-37 before the Mustangs responded with their late theatrics.
The Grizzlies' downfall was foul shooting where they made just 10-of-23 shots, including just 6 of 12 in the fourth period.
Bernard and McKissick each finished with 12 points for Herriman, which made just 3-of-17 shots from three-point range.
Bruce Smith is owner of Matchup, a Utah-based company that provides high school sports teams with various publications. For information, see www.matchupUT.com.
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