OGDEN — Comfortably ahead 13 points early in the fourth quarter, East looked poised to run away from Murray for the 4A first-round victory.
But East star Parker Van Dyke knew it wouldn’t be that easy.
“We knew they weren’t going to just stop. This is a win-or-go-home style of play, so we knew they’d make a comeback,” said the Ute recruit.
Murray did just that, scoring 12 straight to trim the lead to one with three minutes remaining.
That’s when Van Dyke basically said enough is enough. The senior scored East’s last 11 points, and came up with the game-clinching steal in the final seconds as East held on for the 68-62 victory at the Dee Events Center on Tuesday morning.
“I just wanted to get the free throws. I wasn’t really shooting well throughout the whole game, so I wanted to take control and win the game,” said Van Dyke, who finished with 29 points on 9-of-10 shooting at the line and 9-of-21 shooting from the field.
East advances to Thursday’s 4A semifinals with the win and will face Logan at 7:30 p.m.
Murray nearly prevented that from happening.
With East leading 57-44, Murray big man Nate Aland scored six points to key a 12-0 run as the Spartans whittled the lead to 57-56.
East coach Skip Lowe knew he needed to call a timeout.
“I was just really trying to relax them, trying to get them to think about fundamentals,” said Lowe. “I knew we were getting into the bonus, and obviously when you get Parker the ball and you let him make plays, he can do a lot of things.”
Coming out of the timeout, Van Dyke responded with two free throws and then a steal and layup over a 20-second stretch to stretch the lead to 61-56.
Murray hung around though, cutting the lead to 65-62 on a pair of Ryan Topham free throws with 1:01 remaining.
After Van Dyke missed the front end of a one-and-one, and then strangely allowed himself to get tied up for a jump ball with 15 seconds remaining, Murray had one more chance to potentially tie the game.
East played great pressure defense around the perimeter, and Van Dyke picked up the loose ball and raced down court, converting a three-point play with one second remaining.
Early on, East could do no wrong. Trailing 16-13 after the first quarter, the Leopards knocked down six 3-pointer in the second quarter to race to a 37-26 halftime lead.
Lowe had heard all about how tough it was for teams to shoot in the big venue in the early game, but he told his players to shoot anyway.
“I’m just too dumb to know any different. I’ve never played in a (9:30 a.m. game),” said Lowe. “I just told our guys we’re going to come out and shoot the ball. That’s what we do.”
East was 7 of 16 from 3-point range in the first half and finished 10 of 23 for the game.
Aland led Murray with 20 points and 11 rebounds in the loss, while freshman A.J. Hodges scored 15 points.
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