WEST VALLEY CITY — Holding a two-point lead at halftime Friday night at Hunter High, Taylorsville was 16 minutes away from claiming sole possession of first place in Region 2.
The Warriors recognized Hunter’s struggles from the perimeter and clamped down their zone — tempting the Wolverines to continue firing up long-distance shots. The strategy limited Hunter to 12 points in the second half and pushed Taylorsville to a 51-32 win and an undefeated 5-0 record in region play.
“I think we executed our zone pretty well in the second half,” Taylorsville coach Jim Boyce said. “I thought we rebounded pretty well and they weren’t hitting their shots, so we just stayed in that zone.”
Boyce quickly credited assistant coach Guy Mackay with the defensive awareness, along with Manuel Evangelista, who held Hunter standout Noah Togiai to eight points, his season-low. The Wolverines were 11 of 44 from the floor and only scored 19 points in the first, third and fourth quarters combined.
“Holding Hunter to the low 30s is just phenomenal,” Boyce said. “Manuel Evangelista did a great job on Noah Togiai, just unbelievable defensive effort. That really won us the game. He’s a really good matchup for us against Noah. I mean, Noah is a handful — I’m glad we have a guy like that we can put on him. He did an outstanding job.”
Togiai entered the contest averaging nearly 25 points per game, but he appeared to favor his leg after it awkwardly curled while he was challenging a shot in transition in the second quarter. Resultantly, he began distributing to his teammates rather than looking to score, which unintentionally benefited Taylorsville’s game plan.
“It was almost the opposite,” Boyce said when asked if Togiai was the main focus defensively. “Some of the other guys have had some good games as of late. Really our focus was to stop the other guys. We were kind of expecting Noah to get his, but we didn’t want the other guys to go off.”
Taylorsville established its first cushion on the opening possession of the second quarter on Sidney Freeman’s transition 3-pointer for a 12-7 advantage. Freeman, who finished with a game-high 19 points, accounted for 11 of Taylorsville’s first 12 points.
Hunter eventually narrowed the deficit to 18-17 with 3:11 remaining in the first half with consecutive buckets by Joe Falepapalangi. However, for two minutes and 20 seconds thereafter, both teams committed turnovers on every possession — a common theme for most of the night.
Taylorsville widened its lead, 27-20, early in the third quarter with five quick points by Jevin Warren before Togiai connected on his first attempt — a drive-and-kick with 5:08 remaining.
The five points were part of a 13-point second half for Warren, who finished with 18 points.
“They’re always solid,” Boyce said of Freeman and Warren, who have led the team in scoring all season.
After Togiai finished a strong and-one play at the rim to bring the Wolverines within five, 31-26, the deficit boiled over. Togiai added another bucket early in the fourth quarter — the last points until the 1:22 mark when Falepapalangi hit two free throws. Falepapalangi led Hunter with nine points.
“It’s not very big if we don’t keep it going,” Boyce said. “We’re focused on West right now. It’s great to be 5-0, but I just told the guys, ‘Let’s go accomplish something before we sit back and talk about it.’ We’ve got to focus on West on Tuesday, and they about beat us at our place.”
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @phibbs_
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company