OGDEN Most would look at Davis' 63-54 victory Monday over Timpanogos in the 5A playoffs as a game that finished a lot closer than expected.
But actually, those who saw the game and even the undefeated Darts themselves are probably feeling the final margin was a lot more comfortable than it should have been. Or at least, could have been.
The Timberwolves a No. 4 seed from Region 4 gave the Darts all they could handle, and were actually in position to pull off the tournament stunner until the final two minutes.
In fact, the game was tied three times and there were 13 lead changes. Timpanogos led by three late in the third period and trailed only by four with two minutes remaining.
But, as Davis coach Jay Welk pointed out afterwards, a narrow first-round win is still a ton better than a first-round upset which is what happened to Davis in the 5A tournament one year ago.
"The bottom line is, you win or go home. We're not going home," Welk said. "But I do think we can play better than we did today and that we need to play better."
Even though the Darts struggled at times, they still had several big scoring runs that allowed them to, for the most part, stay in control of the game. And Welk admits that one reason Davis didn't pull away until late was the play of Timpanogos.
"I thought we showed a little bit of tightness early on, but I thought we responded well late to a team that played exceptionally good basketball," Welk said. "I was very impressed by them."
As to the main reason Davis did take control down the stretch? Rebounding, and some huge late baskets by Jackson Stevenett. The Darts had 17 offensive boards, and Stevenett scored 10 of his 15 points in the final nine minutes.
"What we weren't doing is rebounding. And that's kind of a staple of what we do is rebound and play good defense," Welk said.
By getting good looks on nearly every possession early, and behind the long-range bombing of Connor Van Brocklin, the Darts finished the first quarter leading 16-10.
The T-Wolves made their first statement when they opened the second quarter on back-to-back 3-pointers by Trevor Thomas and Skyler Halford to take their first lead. And when Halford finished the half with a steal and layup, and then rattled in a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer, Timpanogos trailed only 27-26 at the break.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth battle the entire way, with eight lead changes. The T-Wolves' biggest lead was 39-36 late in the quarter when Andrew Eide banked in a put-back basket.
The next few minutes, however, belonged to Davis. The Darts finished the third frame leading 41-39 on back-to-back, fall-away jumpers by Stevenett. When Chase Flint buried two free throws to open the fourth and Nick Gruninger drilled a trey following an offensive rebound, Davis was up 46-39.
"I thought our kids executed really well during that stretch, and I thought we got a lot more aggressive," Welk said.
The Darts put the dagger in, when leading 53-49 with two minutes left, they scored eight straight in just over a minute. The exclamation point came when Flint lobbed a pass to Stevenett, who caught the ball about four feet from the hoop and slammed it home over a Timpanogos defender.Halford led all scorers with 21 points. Van Brocklin topped the Darts with 18, which included four 3-pointers, and Stevenett and Gruninger each tallied 15.
Top performer: Davis' Connor Van Brocklin finished with a team-high 18 points and hit four treys.
Key stat: The Darts had 17 offensive rebounds, most of which came in the second half.Up next: Quarterfinals, Davis vs. Alta, Wednesday, 6 p.m.