TAYLORSVILLE — It took a few minutes for the Timpanogos Timberwolves to find their legs in the first round of the 4A state tournament game on Tuesday evening. But once they found their comfort zone, the Twolves never looked back, beating the Dixie Flyers in convincing fashion, 62-32.
Though his team held a nine-point advantage and the midpoint, Timpanogos head coach Kawika Akina didn't feel like he'd really seen them play at their best until taking the court after halftime.
"When we came out in the third quarter, we figured out what they were doing and made some adjustments," he said. "Once we started attacked and being aggressive on the offensive end, I thought we started playing a lot better."
Timpanogos scored 22 points in the third quarter and held Dixie to just 10. They added 23 more points in the final period, many of which were scored by young players getting their first opportunity to play in a state game.
"It was awesome," Akina said of being able to give his underclassmen quality minutes in such an important game. "I put them in and they had a couple of turnovers so I took them out to kind of settle them down a little bit — I know they were nervous in their first time being out here on this big court.
"But I thought they did well. They did exactly what we do in practice every day. They attacked and played hard and they finished, and that's what I asked for."
Four different seldom-used players scored for the Timberwolves, and Akina said he was especially pleased with how freshman Jamaica Christensen used her time on the court. The 5-foot-8 guard, who had scored in just three other games before the state tournament, accounted for six Timpanogos points, all of which came in the fourth quarter.
"When she gets it, she's just going to go," he said. "She's long and takes long strides. She has her moves down where she goes around the defense and scores. She did pretty well on that a few times tonight."
Before making way for her younger teammates, senior Alexa Anderson first got the Timberwolves rolling. She hit two big 3-pointers in the second quarter then added two quick layups off of steals to start the third, making her way to a game-high 13 points.
"She gets us going," Akina said. "If she can hit shots, we're hard to guard because now you've got to pick your poison. If you're going to deny her, then we're going to go inside, and if you're going inside, she's going to be wide open to hit shots like she did tonight."
Leading the way for the Flyers was senior Sarah Empey, who totaled 12 points, scoring half of those from the foul line. Dixie shot 32 foul shots, making just 18, compared to the Timberwolves' 6-for-8 performance from the line. Timpanogos also made nearly four times as many field goals as Dixie, with 27 compared to the Flyers' seven.
With the win, Timpanogos will meet Mountain Crest, a team they lost by 20 points to in the second outing of the season. The game will begin at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, and Akina is happy for the rematch.
"Man it's going to be a great game," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing them again and I think it's going to be a fun game. They're really, really good and they've got three really good posts that's we've got to be able to defend."