SALT LAKE CITY – On a night that resembled Halloween in the Highland cheering section, sophomore David Divver had a costume of his own.
The sophomore reserve came dressed more like a senior. He scored 13 points and hit two 3-pointers during a key stretch early in the fourth quarter to lift the Rams past East 62-53 Tuesday night in a Region 6 game.
“Divver is a player,” said Highland coach Keith West. “When they put a lot of concentration on our other two guys, someone will be left open.”
Highland’s usual scoring tandem – Sam Orchard and Nate Fakahafua – had 19 and 18 points. However, Orchard’s playing time was limited early due to foul trouble. Orchard got most of his points in the final period, when East was forced to foul and the senior, who made 18 straight last Friday against Bountiful, hit enough to keep the Leopards from any kind of rally.
“We were right there. Then there was that two-minute stretch where they got that big lead on us,” said East coach Skip Lowe. “But we gave one of the best teams in the state a good run.” Highland improved its record to 17-2 overall and 9-1 in region. The Rams are in first place with just two games remaining. East fell to 11-9 and 4-6. The Leopards are headed for postseason play, but will likely be involved in a play-in game.
The atmosphere at Highland should prepare both teams for the future. Highland’s gym was nearly full, and most of the home crowd was dressed in scary, black costumes. The game was part of the Rams’ annual “Freak East” festivities.
“It’s wild. I remember playing in it when I was at East,” said Lowe. “You never know how it’s going to affect 16- and 17-year-old kids.”
For most of the game, the crowd noise and costumes seemed to affect both teams about the same. East used the scoring of sophomore Parker Van Dyke and senior Jack Larson to stay close. The Rams’ lead was just 34-31 going into the final period, but Divver nailed a couple of 3-pointers and Fakahafua had a spinning layup to suddenly build the margin to 11.
Van Dyke stopped the run with a three – the Leopards’ only trey of the night – but the damage was done. East had to foul late in the game and Orchard was the one with the ball. He also helped put the finishing touch on the game with a steal and layup that kept East’s vocal fans from getting too involved.
The victory was Highland’s 16th straight against its rival and kept the Rams’ sights on what could be their first region title since 2005-06.
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.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company