OREM — Orem withstood everything visiting rival Timpview threw at it, overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit to narrowly escape with a 57-55 victory.

Junior point guard Zac Hunsaker hit two game-winning free-throws with 15.9 seconds left to seal the win. Timpview then had ample opportunity to tie it up and send it into overtime, but a missed shot and two failed put-back attempts closed out their upset bid.

The teams played on even terms for much of the first quarter before the Thunderbirds exploded in the second quarter, building a 38-24 lead at the half.

Most of their work was done behind the arc with four made 3-pointers during the second quarter.

Orem, meanwhile, couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, missing on all but one of their 3-point attempts during the first half. About the only Tiger hitting an outside shot before the second half was a student named Tony, who connected on a half-court shot during a break, winning himself 56 free pizzas from Wise Guys.

Clearly Orem had much to improve on during the second half in order to cut the deficit and win the game. While most coaches would have laid into their players, Orem coach Golden Holt took a different approach.

"Coaches are funny — we want everything — we want to win by forty, but we also want close games — challenges that will toughen us up for the playoffs," he said. "So I didn't get fiery at halftime — I just told the boys that they had a chance to show what they were made of, and they did that."

Orem used increased its defensive intensity to hold Timpview to just four points during the third quarter. A baseline dunk by senior Josh Pollard early in the quarter seemed to really get the team off into the right direction — closing to within just one point at 42-41 entering the fourth quarter.

The Tigers took the lead after a basket by Christian Clark to begin the final period — extending the lead to six points shortly thereafter and seemingly taking complete control of the game. The Thunderbirds weren't done, however, storming back to tie the game at 55-55 following a 3-point make from Leo Roese with 1:24.

Orem then elected to play for the last shot before Hunsaker drew a foul with 15.9 seconds left — leading to his two game-winning foul shots.

"I'm proud of how our kids handled themselves tonight after falling behind," said Holt. "We didn't change much of anything in the second half — we just played with a lot more intensity, and as a coach, it's always hard to know how your kids will respond, but I like how we competed and we were able to get a win against a very good Timpview team tonight."

Orem used balanced scoring with Hunsaker and Dalton Nixon each scoring 13 points apiece and Quin Peters and Pollard each scoring 12. Timpview was led by Taylor Roy's 14 points with Roese finishing with 12.

With the win, Orem moves to 10-1 and will next take on Mountain View. With the loss Timpview drops to 7-4.

email: bgurney@desnews.com