OREM High school coaches love to use the term "step up."
And when you're shorthanded like the Orem Tigers were Friday night, somebody certainly needed to take their game up a notch. Fortunately for the Tigers, in their 54-52 win over neighboring Timpanogos they had a handful of young players come up big on a night when four seniors were sitting the pine for disciplinary reasons.
"We have some seniors suspended that would have been there normally, so I'm just proud as heck of the kids. They just figured out a way to win a game," Orem coach Mike Conner said.
It wasn't always pretty for Orem. However, the good times outweighed the bad times and the mostly inexperienced lineup the Tigers had on the floor still scraped out a victory behind two big runs one to start the second quarter and one to start the final quarter. Only four Tigers scored, but several others had big games on defense and on the boards. Junior center Ian Harward led Orem with 16, Jake Robison scored 15, Goose Kallunki 12 and Jake Green, who nailed three treys, tallied 11.
Timpanogos, behind a 10-point quarter from Colton Willman and seven-point frame from Skylar Halford, ran out to a 7-0 lead and finished the first quarter leading 19-11. But Orem surged back with a 15-2 run to start the second to go up 26-21 thanks to a trey from Kallunki, two threes from Green and two inside jumpers by Robison. A steal and layup late in the half by Trevor Thomas cut Orem's lead to 26-24 at the break.
Orem opened up a six-point lead early in the third, before the T-Wolves ran off 11 straight keyed by a Thomas 3-pointer and two buckets by Halford. The Tigers knotted the game 35-35 with Green's final trey and another jumper by Robison. The Tigers took the lead for good with a 13-3 run to start the fourth to go up 50-42. Robison, Kallunki and Harward each had two hoops in the stretch.
"We started passing the ball a whole lot more and started making them play defense," Conner said. "We started having five, six or seven-pass possessions instead of one or two."
But the T-Wolves didn't go away and made the ending exciting with some tough defense. With 50 seconds remaining and the Tigers up by eight, Halford made a quick layup. Then, after Orem missed the front end of a one-and-one, Halford raced down and scored again. With 13 ticks on the clock and Orem up 53-50, Timpanogos had a chance to make it a one-point game but missed two free throws. On the end, a free throw by Robison made it a two-possession game which made a last-second layup by Halford harmless.
"We panicked a little bit and our youth showed up (at the end)," Conner said. "I mean, we were playing a bunch of young kids."For Timpanogos, Halford finished with 19 and Willman popped in 18.