Last year, the biggest disappointment of the 4A prep basketball state tournament had to be the quick elimination of the contingent from Utah County's Region 4, as four highly regarded teams won just two of 10 tournament games before their early ousters. This year, one of the biggest surprises is Region 4's success so far in the 4A playoffs.
Timpview and Orem became the first two teams to earn spots in Wednesday's semifinals, with the Region 4 pair not only posting quarterfinal victories Monday night but doing so against ranked foes. In tournament games played at the Huntsman Center, Timpview knocked off fourth-ranked Viewmont 74-64, while Orem upset second-ranked Hillcrest, 54-46.Just a year ago, Region 4 sent four respected representatives into the playoffs - American Fork, Provo, Timpview and Mountain View. The first three were ranked among the state's top five 4A teams - AF had been the 1989 4A runner-up, Provo had won four 3A hoops crowns during the 1980s, and Timpview was coming off back-to-back 3A title seasons. But the Region 4 foursome didn't last long at the 1990 tournament, failing to live up to great expectations.
"Our region was disappointed with the way things turned out last year," said Orem Coach Robert Louder. "So far, we're playing better. It's too bad that we (Orem and Timpview) are in the same bracket, but at least one of us willl be in the finals."
Reaching the 4A semis wasn't lost on the players, either. "A lot of it was beinng mentally prepared," said Timpview guard Richard Jackson. "Last year, we came in not thinking that we could lose, that in the past a 3A semifinal spot was essentially assured for us no matter how we played."
Besides Timpview and Orem, the 4A Final Four will include the winners of Tuesday's Cottonwood-Davis and Highland-Bonneville games.
Orem 54, Hillcrest 46
After the second-ranked Huskies made only two of 18 attempts from the floor in the first half, one would think that Hillcrest's shooting couldn't get any worse than that 11-percent average.
It didn't get worse - but it didn't get much better. Hillcrest shot 11-of-40 for the second half - 28 percent - as the smallish, perimeter-bound Huskies finished the game with 13-of-58 shooting for 22 percent.
"We've had trouble with those soft zones all year," said Hillcrest Coach Steve Margetts. "That's the trouble with not having a big post player to go inside to . . . . Definitely, we couldn't play behind against a team like that."
Despite the 2-of-18 first-half shooting and not managing a basket through the first 14:45 of the game, Hillcrest still led 8-6 after the first period and 15-14 on that first field goal - a 3-pointer by John Owen. Of course, the Huskies' 12-of-12 shooting from the line helped as a temporary remedy to the accuracy woes.
However, Orem finished the first half with a 7-2 mini-run keyed by Bryce Hull, as the Tigers took a 27-17 advantage.
Early in the second half, Hillcrest drew to within two points and then just one - the later single-point difference thanks to a pair of Owen FTs. But the Tigers made five of their six FG attempts - Hull and Cameron Johnson had two baskets each - and Jon Sanders added four free throws for a 38-29 lead afer three quarters. Hillcrest ended the period with 5-of-16 shooting.
Orem quickly built its advantage to double-digits, thanks in part to two Johnson buckets and four more FTs by Sanders. The Tigers amassed their biggest advantage of the game at 51-36 with 2:25 left to play but managed only three points the rest of the way on 3-of-10 shooting from the line - including missing the front end of four one-and-one opportunities. Hillcrest did outscore Orem 10-3 during that final stretch, but the Huskies made only six of 24 attempted shots during the quarter.
The Tiger duo of Hull and Brian Rasmussen finished with 13 points each; Johnson tallied 11 points and 10 boards, while Sanders' 11 points came on 11-of-12 FT shooting. Brian Kelley led Hillcrest with a 15-point outing, while Owen added 11 and Scott Stephenson 10.
Timpview 74, Viewmont 64
The T-birds were up by as many as 12 points in the first half, but poor free-throw shooting and a late-half surge by the Vikings made for only a five-point cushion at halftime. Timpview seemed to duplicate the effort again in the third period, but the double-digit lead was whittled down by a 10-2 Viewmont spurt spurred on by John Robison and Jared Peterson.
The Vikings drew close in the fourth period - down by five early, then just four points at 59-55, and still within striking distance at 67-62 with 2:04 left to play. But the T-birds outscored them 7-2 in the final minutes, despite shooting just 1-of-6 from the line during that stretch.
Keying the Timpview triumph was 6-foot-6 senior guard Richard Jackson, who has a Stanford scholarship awaiting for him after he returns from his anticipated two-year LDS Church mission. Jackson finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. "He's always doing something for us," said Timpview Coach Don Chamberlain of Jackson.
And even then, Viewmont Coach Clyde Nelson felt that his Vikings had kept the T-bird standout in check. "I thought we did as good a job defensively to keep him down - the other kids came through for them."
The "others" included four more Timpview players who finished in double-figure scoring - Bob Bearnson with 16 points, Ryan Olson 14, Matt Bateman 12 and Doug Henstrom 10.
Robison finished with a team-high 16 points for Viewmont, while Jason Hynek contributed 15 and Peterson 10.
Brighton 70, Taylorsvile 51: The Bengals eliminated the 1990 runner-up Warriors by extending a 29-24 halftime advantage with a 23-11 third quarter. Alex Fisher led all scorers with three treys and 23 points, while Brighton teammates Derrick Welling and John Liljenquist contributed 11 points apiece. Taylorsville had a twosome in double-figure scoring - Justin Thomas with 14 points and Jeff Jenson with 10.
Clearfield 67, Alta 62: Down by seven at intermission, the Falcons knotted the game by outscoring the Hawks 11-7 in the third quarter. Clearfield later took the lead for good with an 11-3 spurt midway in the final period and used 10-of-10 shooting from the line to preserve the victory. The Clearfield perimeter tandem of Jason Dowdy and Joe Berrera scored 22 and 16 points, respectively, while Cory Johnson contributed another 17. Alta was paced by Justin Barlow (16 points) and Ryan Bills .
In the winners-bracket games, Highland (13-8) battles Bonneville (16-5) at 4:10 p.m., while Cottonwood (19-2) meets Davis (16-5) at 8:10 p.m. In consolation play, it's Provo taking on Bingham at 2:30 p.m. and West Jordan versus Cyprus at 6:30 p.m.
Both brackets take to the court Wednesday, with the two Final Four semifinals the featured matches. Timpview (20-3) and Orem (14-6) square off in the 7:10 p.m. game, while the winners of the Cottonwood-Davis and Highland-Bonneville contests advance to the 8:50 p.m. nightcap.
Two of the four Wednesday consolation matchups are already set - Hillcrest against Viewmont at 11:50 a.m., and Clearfield versus Brighton at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday's games decide the other participants - the 3:10 p.m. game pits the winners of the West Jordan-Cyprus and Provo-Bingham games, while the 5:30 p.m. contest involves the losers of the Cottonwood-Davis and Highland-Bonneville games.