SPANISH FORK For anyone who might have thought differently, the Lone Peak Knights clearly were not looking past the Spanish Fork Dons to Friday's marquee matchup with Pleasant Grove.
Wednesday's 75-55 convincing Region 4 boys basketball win over the Dons, a team that took the Vikings down to the wire last week, should indicate that the Knights are taking every game seriously.
"We remember what happened here last year," Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis said, alluding to Spanish Fork's win on a last-second desperation shot near halfcourt that accounted for the Knights' only defeat last season. "I think the kids were almost looking forward to this more. They were ready to play."
Lone Peak's fast start and strong finish indicates Lewis' assessment is accurate. The Knights scored the game's first six points, never trailed in the game, only allowed the Dons as close as four points after the opening minutes, and led by as many 21.
The Knights punished the Dons inside on offense, and kept them outside on defense with a hard to penetrate zone that kept Spanish Fork away from the basket for most of the game. Lone Peak, with many second-chance opportunities, made 29 field goals to only 14 for Spanish Fork.
The Dons just had no answer for Lone Peak's size. The Knights' front line of Justin Hamilton, Bracken Funk and Josh Sharp combined for 30 points, and 6-foot-5 No. 2 guard Tyler Haws tossed in a game-high 22.
On the defensive end, the Knights' length made it difficult for Spanish Fork to pass the ball inside or get uncontested looks from outside. Most of Spanish Fork's scoring opportunities came from Dallin Naulu's penetration, and from the free-throw line - where the Dons took 32 foul shots.
"It's nice to have a little bit of size, that's for sure," Lewis said.
Still, Spanish Fork stayed within striking distance for the first three quarters, but never could break loose for a solid scoring run. Lone Peak led 16-12 after the first, and then took a 33-27 lead into intermission when Brian Hale banked in a put-back basket at the buzzer.
At halftime, Lewis told his team not to stray from its strengths which is pounding the ball into the paint.
"We had a focus of getting the ball into the post and making them guard us down there. That was also our focus in the first half, but we got a little wild and went away from that," Lewis said.
The Knights also tweaked their zone defense a little to put a little more pressure on Spanish Fork's guards.
"I think that helped us get off to a good start in the second half. Eventually they figured it out, but it was good for three or four minutes," Lewis said.
With a 10-3 run to open the third, Lone Peak went up 43-30. The Dons cut that margin back to 10 points when Matt Gardner buried his third trey of the game. Midway through the fourth, after Naulu fouled out, the Knights scored 11 straight to put the game away.
"I think they missed some shots that they normally make," Lewis said. "But any time you can get out of here with a win, I'll take it."For the Dons, Zach Clayton scored 13, Juan Vergera 12 and Gardner tossed in 10.