Zac Hunter has made a ton of progress and he really attacks the rim well. We need him to be assertive and I think we have some guys down low who can score if we get it to them. —American Fork coach Doug Meacham
AMERICAN FORK — It's not often that you can arrive an hour before a Utah prep basketball game and feel like you've arrived hours late, but this wasn't any ordinary basketball game — this was Lone Peak versus American Fork. The history between the two teams is immense and the rivalry intense as witnessed by the standing-room only crowd that had the gym packed hours before tipoff.
The result was the Cavemen were finally able to get the Knight monkey off their back, earning a 58-50 victory. The game was marked by physical play with American Fork proving to maintain a lot of its composure while Lone Peak — particularly star Nick Emery — was found pressing and out of sorts during key stretches, particularly as the third quarter came to a close.
With 6.4 seconds remaining in the third quarter and American Fork up 42-34, Emery was thrown out of the game following a hard foul and subsequent shove to Caveman guard Austin Waddoups. Emery's frustration was likely a culmination of a cold-shooting quarter that saw him go scoreless along with Brody Berry going down with an ankle injury the prior possession.
Emery was effective early, but finished with just 10 points due in large part to 6-foot-5 Quincy Bair who was matched up on the Lone Peak star throughout the game.
"Quincy's length makes him a pretty good defender," said American Fork coach Doug Meacham. "He was always there and we knew that if they're hitting some of those big rainbow shots the whole game then they deserve to win. We know that they're going to hit some shots like that, but we told him to adjust and to just keep playing."
American Fork's size advantage also played a huge part in them building a big lead into the final quarter. Starting forwards Zac Hunter and Danny Beddes combined for 11 of their team's 12 points during the third quarter, doing most of their damage on the inside.
"Zac Hunter has made a ton of progress and he really attacks the rim well," said Meacham. "We need him to be assertive and I think we have some guys down low who can score if we get it to them."
Leading the way for the Cavemen was the steady play of point guard Marcel Davis whose contributions weren't readily apparent on the stat sheet.
"I thought his defensive play was huge," said Meacham. "Sometimes we need your defense and sometimes we need you to make big plays down the stretch and he got the ball inside and ran our team. There will be times we need him to score a bit more, but I think he did a great job tonight."
Davis finished the game with six points.
The Knights didn't fold up and go home following Emery's ejection, however, making a furious run late led by sophomore T.J. Haws. Haws was able to cut the lead to just one point at 49-48 with just 1:50 remaining in the contest.
After Beddes missed the front end of a one-and-one attempt, Lone Peak forward Chase Hansen found himself wide-open from the arc only to have his shot rim out. Hansen's miss proved to be Lone Peak's last gasp as American Fork went on to hit on 9-of-12 free throw attempts, closing out their bitter rival.
"These guys were acting like they were supposed to win and that's what I'm proud of," said Meacham. "We learned from some mistakes … we got on them and we kept going on the throttle and I think that's what you have to do. We kind of broke their spirit a bit and got on them at the end and that's all you can do against a great team like that."
Hunter led all scorers with 19 points while Lone Peak was led by Talon Shumway's 14 points with Haws contributing 13.
With the win, American Fork moves to 16-2 on the year while Lone Peak drops to 16-3.
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