OREM In one of the most anticipated games in the first round of the 4A state tournament, the Box Elder Bees held off a charging Provo squad 58-54 to move into the state championship quarterfinals.
Early in the fourth quarter the Bees were waltzing along to what appeared to be an easy victory over the Bulldogs, but Provo simply refused to go away.
Box Elder used a huge run in the third quarter and a 6-2 start to the fourth quarter to grab onto a 49-34 lead, but that was when Provo decided it didn't want this playoff run to end. Ashley Kuchar picked up a trey and a layup after sinking a pair of free throws and watching teammate Sara Heaton pick up a layup, cutting the Box Elder lead to six.
"We've practiced this scenario in our heads so many times that we knew we could hold on and win this game. We did a great job finishing," said Box Elder coach Kris Harding after her team dropped the huge lead late in the game.
Kuchar picked up two more 3-pointers and Heaton added another layup, while holding the Bees to only two layups by Mandy Munns and Brooke Tolman to slice the lead even further to 53-51 with only 1:40 left to play. Then things started going Box Elder's way again as Karissa Bosco was called for a charge, taking her game-tying layup away.
The Bees then hit five of eight free throws down the stretch to ice it.
Kuchar scored 15 points in a fourth quarter clinic and finished the game with 21 for the Bulldogs, but it was Box Elder's Tiffany Wilde that took over the game from the opening tip with nine first-quarter points and 28 in the game.
"Wilde did a good job posting up and getting some great points for us. We saw that we had a mismatch there and used it to our advantage," said Harding, who noted that her team usually tries to exploit a mismatch either with Wilde or with Mandy Munns.
"They do a great job of seeing what's there and what's not," said Harding, noting that her heart started beating again after Munns, who scored nine points, picked up a key offensive board off of a missed free throw by Tolman with 4.5 seconds to go. The board allowed her team to take almost all of the time off the clock with a 54-51 lead and gave Karlie Mitchell a chance to drain another free throw for the four-point victory.
Box Elder's Lauren Haramoto also gave her team a big lift by knocking down 9-of-9 from the line in scoring her nine points."We knew this was going to be a battle. Our road to the championship game is by far one of the toughest draws," said Harding as not only did her team have to battle the state's No. 4 squad and upset them in the first round, it draws No. 3 Snow Canyon tonight at 7:40 in the quarterfinals at Salt Lake Community College.
Top performer: Tiffany Wilde went wild with 28 points to lead the Bees to a first-round upset over No. 4 Provo.
Key stat: The Bees went on a 17-6 scoring run to end the third and begin the fourth, giving them a good margin for error.
Up next: Quarterfinals vs. Snow Canyon 7:40 p.m. today