WEST VALLEY CITY — Forty seconds earlier, Provo's Adam Finch had missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that could've put his team ahead three with under a minute remaining in its 4A first round game with Highland.
So when he got the opportunity to buoy his team's playoffs chances again with 7.3 seconds left on the clock, he didn't squander it.
"I missed the first one, the 1-and-1, and I just knew those ones were coming. I wasn't going to miss three in a row," said Finch.
Sure enough, Finch sank both free throws and when Highland missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Bulldogs were officially through to the quarterfinals with a 42-39 victory at the Maverik Center.
Finch finished with 13 points, four rebounds and four steals, and he also put Provo ahead for good with a pair of free throws with 1:17 remaining in the game.
Highland had four possessions after going down 40-39, but they ended in a turnover and three missed shots.
With the victory, Region 8 runner-up Provo advances to the 4A quarterfinals on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. against either Hillcrest or Mountain Crest.
Provo coach Craig Drury wasn't one bit surprised to see such a close game in the tournament opener.
"The 4A ranks are very evenly matched this year. According to all the media sources there's two teams that kind of stick their head up a little bit, and maybe they are. But the rest of us are all so closely matched," said Drury.
Both teams came out red hot in the first quarter, certainly a surprise for teams who hang their hats on defense.
Highland made 7-of-14 shots in the first quarter, including three 3-pointers, to take a 19-17 lead. Provo, which fell behind 14-5 early, made five of its last six shots to finish the quarter 6 of 10 from the field.
With almost the flip of a switch, both teams went ice cold as Provo outscored Highland 14-11 over the next three quarters.
"Nerves do a lot of things, and sometimes they loosen the elbow. Every shot (where) the guy was open they made in the first quarter, but as you saw when the game got on the line, that didn't happen," said Drury.
Down 29-23 at the half, Highland cut the deficit to 31-30 by the end of the quarter with Liam Thomas accounting for all seven points. The senior finished with a game-high 17 points and led his team in rebounding with five.
Despite making just one basket in the third quarter, and then falling behind 32-31 on a Thomas layup early in the fourth quarter, Provo regrouped quickly.
"When your team's going, you can't stop us. Then when you miss a shot, and it's like, 'Oh no.' You just have to keep your mental toughness," said Finch.
Dallin Bosco hit a big 3-pointer with 4:52 remaining in the fourth quarter to put Provo ahead 37-34, but Thomas responded with his own three to tie it at 37-37. Highland then when ahead 39-37 on a Todd Connolly layup with 2:45 remaining, but it didn't score the rest of the game as Provo somehow found a way to win despite shooting just 18 percent in the second half.
David Divver finished with 14 points for Highland, with 10 coming during that hot-shooting first quarter.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company