With 27 seconds left on the clock in the first quarter, Wendover called a timeout to regroup and set a play.
Things did not go exactly as planned, but with time running out Wildcats senior guard Juan Carlos Escobedo, playing in his last home game, found a spot all alone in the corner. A kick-out pass from an offensive rebound was perfectly placed. Escobedo was able to set his feet and measure the shot. As time ran out, he drained his second 3-pointer of the first period and pulled his Wildcats to within four points of no. 2 ranked Liahona to end the quarter.
The Warriors made sure Wendover would not further position itself to threaten to complete the comeback before halftime. Liahona reeled off 28 points before the Wildcats could score a field goal in the second quarter and crusied to a 85-36 victory on Friday night.
Liahona players took the court focused in the second quarter after a listless first quarter. Warriors coach Jeremy Long calmly steered his team through the quarter, calling just one timeout with 27 seconds left. Long's calmness rubbed off on his players and they went to work shutting down Wendover.
Increased pressure defense resulted in the Wildcats (2-16) shooting four free throws in the first 3 minutes of the quarter. Wendover made three of them. But by the time, it could score a field goal – breaking a drought with 45 seconds left in the second stanza – Liahona (15-3) had reeled off 28 points.
The Warriors rode a 30 point quarter to a 43-14 halftime lead. Liahona added another 23 points in the third quarter with a majority of starters on the bench and finished the game with reserves. Brandon Nichols led the second quarter rally, scoring 10 of his 16 points in that stretch. He joined Brayden Facemyer (23) and Matt Comer (17) in double figures. Facemyer added 9 assists and 5 blocks to his totals.
Liahona players spent nearly six hours traveling in the 30 hours prior to the game. The contest was the third in a back to back to back 3 game run that included a road contest at Region 16 contender Tabiona on Thursday.
“I'm just glad the game is behind us so we can now look forward to Rich next week," Long said. "A very good team that had some struggles early in the year but has come on very strong as of late. It will be a great pre-tournament test for us."
Liahona will finish the regular season at home with games against Region 16 powerhouse Rich (February 17) and no. 1 ranked Wasatch Academy (February 22). The Warriors' only loss to a 1-A school came at Wasatch Academy earlier this year. That game will determine, for all intents and purposes, the Region 18 champion. Wasatch and Liahona have secured the two automatic bids to the state tournament from Region 18.
Kevin Long spent 7 years early in his career as a community newspaper editor. He is an avid 1-A basketball fan and the father of Liahona coach Jeremy Long.