LAS VEGAS — Day 1 of the Jerry Tarkanian Classic on Thursday saw local teams represent the state well with some dominating performances mixed in with one heartbreaking loss.
Orem tipped things off with an impressive win over Coronado (Nev.), 75-60. It was the first win of the year for the Tigers after dropping three straight in the ultra-competitive Great Western Shootout — a tournament Orem hosted.
Tigers coach Golden Holt entered this week’s tournament with a different game plan, and in his team's first contest that game plan worked like a charm.
“I thought that if we came out last week with a bit of a loose mentality that we’d play well at home and it obviously didn’t work, so we changed our approach,” Holt said. “We decided to focus on getting in the paint and driving more toward the basket and it worked well.”
Forward Dalton Nixon led the charge for the Tigers with 27 points and two 3-point baskets. Cooper Holt added 21 and one 3-point basket.
The Tigers took charge from the get-go and led 6-0 after just two minutes. The Cougars responded and took the lead at 11-10, but that lead proved to be short-lived and their last of the afternoon, as Orem responded with an 8-0 run to lead 18-11 with eight minutes left in the unique 16-minute half.
The run featured a lot of steals leading to easy baskets.
“I think our precise execution and effort on offense led to us playing more aggressive on defense, which, in turn, led to steals and easy baskets,” Holt said. “Everything clicked for us in that stretch and we were able to build a good lead and hold it.”
The Tigers extended their advantage to 38-23 at the half and held a double-digit margin throughout the second half to walk away with an impressive 15-point win.
Orem received a heavy contribution from center Richard Harward, who controlled the boards, blocked key shots and finished with 10 points.
“I think Richard is going to be the surprise in the state during the next two years,” Holt said. “He’s still very young, but he’s really improving. He has soft hands for a guy his size and he’s really learning the game and learning to help us. He’s going to be a big part of what we do this year.”
Next up for the Tigers is a game against Thunder Ridge (Colo.)
SECRET GETTING OUT: The best team in the state few know about is tiny, yet mighty, defending 2A champ Wasatch Academy. Stocked with prime out-of-state talent, the Tigers used a dominating second-half performance to blow past San Bernardino (Calif.), 75-44.
The Tigers came out a bit sluggish, but still managed an eight-point lead at the half.
"We weren't playing like we know we can in that first half, and that's probably because we've had too much time off," coach Geno Morgan said. "In the second half I think we showed more of what we are and played well."
The second half featured complete dominance on both ends of the court from the get-go, as Wasatch Academy's fast-paced system overwhelmed San Bernardino.
Guards Cody John and Koby McEwen led the way with 23 and 20 points, respectively.
Wasatch will take on Ambridge (Penn.) on Friday.
OTHER ACTION: Lone Peak cruised past Modesto Christian, 70-54, with senior guard TJ Haws leading the way with a game-high 31 points. The Knights will square off against Redondo Union (Calif.) Friday.
Bountiful lost a lead late to and fell in a heartbreaker to El Camino Real (Calif.) 58-55. The Braves will tip off against Durango (Nev.) Friday.
Timpview beat John Muir (Calif.) 74-65 in a late game Thursday.
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