RICHFIELD The first half of Escalante's 1A semifinal showdown with Region 16 champion Rich was pretty good.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well, but there was excitement and action to be found all over the court.
But the second half?
My, oh my, was it something else.
With a spot in today's championship game at stake, second-ranked Escalante and Rich traded blows with one another like they were a pair of heavyweight boxers. And in the end, Escalante managed to get in just one more punch.
Michael Munson drained what proved to be the game-winning 3-pointer with 20 seconds to go, and the Moquis emerged with a pulsating 50-48 win at the Sevier Valley Center Friday.
"Oh, man, I know we've got a state championship game tomorrow, but we'll think of that one," guard Tim Hughes said when asked to describe how good he thought the game he had just participated in was.
"Win or lose (in the title game), we'll remember that game."
Escalante will meet No. 3 Piute for the 1A title at 5 p.m. today.
Hughes has been hot throughout the 1A tournament, and he was on fire in the fourth quarter Friday.
Having trailed Rich for almost the entire night, Escalante relied on Hughes' three 3-pointers and 11 fourth-quarter points to pull itself back into the game, then had to answer several huge Rich baskets at the other end.
But as hot as Hughes, who led all scorers with 19 points, had been down the stretch, he didn't hesitate to give the ball up with the game on the line.
Down two points with 30 seconds remaining, Rich's defense collapsed on him along the baseline.
Rather than force something that wasn't there, however, Hughes quickly fired the ball out to the perimeter, and Munson subsequently drained a wide-open 3-pointer.
Hughes forced a steal at the other end, and after Jace Taylor made 1-of-2 free throws, Rich missed a shot at the buzzer.
"Tim, like all of those guards that we've got, they trust each other," said co-head coach Greg Allen.
Hughes' unselfish decision and Munson's resulting clutch 3 was required to finally put Rich away for good.
Munson's shot came after both teams had thrown everything they had at one another. Besides Hughes' 11 points, Munson came up with two big shots before his game-winner.
Going the other way, Caden Andersen, who led Rich with 15 points, nailed three big shots to keep the Rebels in the game late.
Afterward, Allen heaped praise on Rich and noted he's glad he won't have to face them again in the tournament."Those are as good a bunch of kids as you'll find," he said. "I've had guys tell me. 'They're great kids and pretty good athletes.' Well, I'm telling you, they're great kids and good, good athletes."
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