LEHI — Most assume that Region 4 will come down to Lone Peak and American Fork, but any assumption that either team will waltz its way to the top is likely misguided. Lehi did its best to prove that point Friday, giving the Cavemen everything it had before falling 62-58.
The game looked to be American Fork's for the taking, until a furious fourth-quarter rally brought Lehi to within striking distance. According to American Fork coach Doug Meacham, such an effort from the Pioneers was to be expected.
"Lehi is going to beat teams in this region," he said. "In this region, they're going to knock people off every night. … That's a very good team we played tonight, and we're fortunate to come out of here with a win."
Lehi jumped up early, taking a 7-1 lead before American Fork woke up, closing the margin to 13-12 after the first quarter.
An opening basket by the Pioneers in the second quarter was met by 12 straight points from the Cavemen, including seven points from senior forward Zac Hunter during that stretch. The Cavemen went on to take a 28-20 lead into the half.
They were able to extend that lead to 45-33 after the third quarter, seemingly in complete control, but Lehi simply wouldn't go away and started the final quarter with a 10-2 run, cutting the lead to 47-43 while doing away any notions of an easy Caveman victory. Following a basket from Ryan Christofferson at the 3:17 mark, Lehi found itself down just 52-50.
It proved to be the closest they'd get, however, as American Fork widened the lead to 59-51 following a timeout. They went on to escape with a four-point win, taking some good lessons away with them.
"Part of going on and doing well in the state playoffs is going on the road and getting a win against a quality team and with three minutes to go our guys could have just cowered," said Meacham. "I thought they withheld. I thought our defensive stance could have been better, but you have to credit Lehi — they're a team that moves the ball very well and they control it well."
The play of Hunter and Utah State signee Quincy Bair during the fourth quarter paved the way for the Cavemen. They combined for all but four of their team's 17 fourth quarter points, which included a thunderous dunk by Hunter with 1:22 left, putting AF up 57-51 and all but sealing the victory.
"I thought Zac Hunter, at the end of the game, just wanted the ball," said Meacham. "He's a senior and he's a confident senior. He's one of our most-improved players this year and he's been a big factor in us winning games to this point."
Hunter finished the game with 18 points and nine rebounds while Bair contributed 15 points. Lehi's Colton Colledge led all scorers with 23 while Blake Cleveringa chipped in 13 points and three 3-pointers.
With the win American Fork moves to 10-1. Lehi drops to 8-4.