AMERICAN FORK — In the astronomically huge game between the two top-ranked teams in 5A Friday evening, top-ranked Lone Peak was able to lean on the shoulders of its two stars to claim an impressive 57-42 victory over No. 2 American Fork to find itself alone atop Region 4.
"We won by 15, but it was a lot closer game than that," stated Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis. "We're in first place in region and we still got over half of region to go. I like the way we did in the second half. We executed in the second half. In the first, I thought we were a little bit jittery."
In front of a raucous crowd that exceeded 2,000 people, forcing overflowing fans to watch from televisions set up in other areas of the building — both teams seemed to come out flat, but would eventually heat up after the first two quarters.
The repeating storyline was the foul trouble of Lone Peak's big man Jordan Hamilton. The Knights would start to pull away with quick spurts, but as if it was scripted, right when the game looked to be slipping away, Hamilton would be whistled for another foul, allowing American Fork to reclaim the paint.
"I just wanted to be smart on the offensive rebounds; that's where I was getting most of (my fouls)," said Hamilton. "I (was) getting cheap fouls and everyone was just telling me to calm down and play my game, so I just cooled down and it worked out."
With Hamilton reluctantly on the bench, Lone Peak was forced to rely on Nick Emery, who came into the contest averaging slightly above 22 points per game.
However, the usually automatic marksman couldn't find his shooting touch, going 0-8 from the field in the first half and all seven of his points coming from the line.
"Tough first half, but I started passing the ball more to (Hamilton) — all the guards hit their shots and that's what got me going," remarked Emery.
The slump lasted about one minute into the third quarter, when Emery pulled up from 25 feet and drilled a trey that hit nothing but twine.
"Oh man, it got me goin'," said Emery. "I was struggling in the first half, and all the other guys stepped up and it got me goin'."
However, just like the first half, the two teams would exchange blows like a heavyweight fight — pushing the score to 34-32 heading into the final eight minutes.
And that's when Lone Peak showed just what type of team it really is.
The Knights embarked on a 14-3 run to open the fourth quarter behind two 3-pointers from Emery and Talon Shumway.
The knockout punch came when Emery caught the ball on the perimeter and drove past his defender to penetrate into the key. He was left for a wide-open 10-footer. Instead of launching the shot, he gave a no-look bounce pass to Hamilton, who threw down an emphatic dunk to deflate any chance of a Caveman comeback.
"That was a real mature play," said Lewis, "I think in the first half of last year, he probably shoots that one because there's no one he trusts more than himself, and for good reason. But his teammate has a better shot, and he gets it to him — that's some team ball."
Emery who finished with a game-high 19 points said the fourth-quarter run was a direct reflection on the mentality and character of the Knights.
"We just wanted to show them, we weren't tired at all," he said. "The crowd started getting into it, our Lone Peak student section was awesome tonight, and they were going wild. It couldn't have been more fun.