OREM It took all Friday night, but Timpanogos finally held off a hungry American Fork team that would not go away, in a 58-54 Region 4 victory that guaranteed the Timberwolves an appearance in the state tournament.
Throughout the game, Timpanogos (4-4, 8-10) built leads and watched them whittled away by the athletic and free-wheeling Cavemen, but holding American Fork to only eight points in the third proved to be the difference maker.
"In the second half we picked it up," Timpanogos guard Skyler Halford said. "We were focusing on defense mainly, and we did a good job in that third quarter. Our goal was 12-point quarters, and I think we held them to eight. That is what did it for us."
Halford carried the Timberwolves throughout the first half, scoring 17 of his game-high 23 before the break.
"(Halford) just didn't shoot the ball well tonight, but still he got 23," Timpanogos head coach Clay Anderson said. "It is one thing if you don't shoot the ball well and get nine, but when you get 23, that says a lot about how good he really is."
While Timpanogos led by as many as seven in the second quarter, American Fork guard Derek Danklef hit two 3-pointers in a row to close out the half putting the Cavemen up 33-31.
Timpanogos' pressure forced the Cavemen into several turnovers in the third, and the eight-point quarter put the Timberwolves ahead 45-41. They extended the lead to 51-44 with three minutes remaining, but that was when the Cavemen made another run.
"We told the kids coming in that American Fork will not quit," Anderson said. "They were outmanned tonight, but they did not quit. They always play hard and bump us a lot."
A quick 3-pointer, transition bucket, and a circus shot made by Danklef while getting fouled put the Cavemen up 52-51 with a minute remaining. But Halford drove the lane on the subsequent possession, and as everyone collapsed on him, he dished to his teammate Keegan Blake, who was wide open under the basket putting the Timberwolves up for good.
Down the stretch they went 5-for-6 from the line to seal the victory.
"It wasn't pretty but we got the win," Anderson said. "We needed that. It has been a long time since this team has been in the state tournament and if we don't win that, then there is still a chance that they catch up to us."
Helping Halford with the scoring load was Colton Willman, who had 11 points on the night. Blake also finished with 10 points for the Timberwolves.
Danklef had 15 points to lead American Fork, while Zachary Enosa finished with 11."We hit free throws down the stretch when we needed them and the kids played hard," Anderson said. "I am really grateful my kids have this opportunity."