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WEST VALLEY CITY — Boys basketball 4A favorite Orem took a while to get going — holding just a three-point lead entering the half, but used a third quarter burst and a defensive change-up to crush Skyline 54-35 at the Maverik Center on Wednesday.
The game was a marriage of contrasting styles — Orem, who prefers to play up-tempo with Skyline bringing its deliberate offense that relies on a lot of perimeter passing and back screens. It's an offense that can be a challenge for any team to adjust to.
The Eagles did well in keeping the score low and the game well in hand during the first half — going into the locker room down just 21-18. They were able to close out both quarters strong with Scott Andersen hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first and ending the second with the final four points.
"You have to give Skyline credit — they execute a Princeton-like offense, and we knew that," said Orem coach Golden Holt. "They don't try to hold it as much as they just try to execute team basketball, and you have to admire them for doing that. They don't try to hold the ball, like some teams have done."
Coach Holt felt his team's defensive effort was good, for the most part, but challenged his team to not take any defensive possessions off. He also switched up some things — using a switching man-to-man defense which created some problems.
Those problems were made apparent on the opening possession when sophomore Dalton Nixon intercepted a pass and took it the other way for a dunk.
The Tigers outscored the Eagles 17-5 in the third quarter, taking a 38-23 lead into the fourth.
"We always try to come out strong in the third quarter," said junior guard Zach Hunsaker. "We always try to win the first and third quarter and we did that. … We jumped on them."
Hunsaker made a conscious effort to be more assertive in the second half — scoring eight of his team-high 14 points as Orem built its big lead. He capped off the quarter by hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key, giving his team all the momentum entering the final quarter.
The starters sat for much of the fourth quarter as Skyline was unable to make any serious runs. Nixon finished the game with 11 points, and senior Josh Pollard added another 10. Skyline was led by senior guard DeSean Miller who finished with a game high 15.
Orem next faces co-favorite Bountiful at 4 p.m. in Friday's 4A semifinal-round.
"Bountiful is good. We know it, and we've played them in the semifinals a couple of times," said Holt. "They know us and we know them, so to be the best you have to beat the best, and let's just do it."
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