WEST VALLEY CITY — It was a familiar story for the Provo Bulldogs on Wednesday, as they took on Mountain Crest in the quarterfinals of the 4A state playoffs.
They came out and let their opponent gain the advantage, treating the first half as a warm up before rallying for the 59-53 victory.
"We went into halftime … we were down. That's been the story of the season," senior forward Jonny Flake said. "We're down at halftime a lot."
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, their story often ends with a substantial comeback and a win.
"When we came back and took the lead, I was really happy about that," Flake said, "because when we take the lead in the second half, we never look back."
The Bulldogs gained the advantage in the latter part of the third quarter after trailing by as much as 13 points in the first half and five going into halftime.
"We came out and we were sloppy on offense and defense," junior point guard Adam Finch said. "We needed to tighten up and get the things done we've been practicing for. We came out more physical and more aggressive (in the second half)."
They were able to chip away at the Mountain Crest lead, gaining momentum midway through the third as Finch drained a 3-pointer to bring the team within three, 35-32.
The Bulldogs forged ahead, forcing a turnover on the next possession and hitting two more 3-pointers before the quarter's end — one of which came from Finch.
Finch exercised excellent leadership in the surge and provided crucial offense. He attributed the performance to an all-around team effort, however, noting Russell Isom's role in the comeback.
"He (Isom) got us going defensively in the third quarter. He really built us up and helped me with my leadership to get us going offensively," Finch said.
Finch was held scoreless through the first half and part of the third, and he earned all 15 of his points in the last 12 minutes of the game. He orchestrated the offense, assisting nine times, and hit crucial free throws down the stretch, going 4-of-4 in the final minute after missing a pair earlier in the quarter.
"I just needed to refocus and have confidence that I was going to make my next one," he said.
Flake contributed heftily to the offense as well, leading the Bulldogs with 17 total points and six rebounds in the win. He drove to the basket, got the layup and drew the foul in the fourth to extend a small Bulldog lead.
Trailing by four, the Mustangs were forced to play catch-up and they resorted to fouling. Mountain Crest's Justin Petersen hit a big three to cut the lead to two, 53-51 with 23 seconds remaining but they would get no closer.
Faimafili Laulu-Pututau displayed unmatched intensity in the Mustang loss, finishing with 19 points and six rebounds. Tyler Crosbie and Petersen scored in double figures as well, combining for 28 points. Crosbie had 16 points and four steals while Peterson finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Provo advances to the semifinal round where they'll take on the Olympus Titans.
"We definitely need to step up on defense early," Flake said of the upcoming contest. "We can't let them be scoring in the first quarter like they have been and were going to have to be scoring more."
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