WEST VALLEY CITY — The game was a bit closer than Mustang coach Graydon Buchmiller would have preferred, but in the end favorite Mountain Crest held off Hillcrest, 44-37, in first-round action of the 4A boys state tournament.
The Mustangs used some big shots late and clutch free-throw shooting to secure the win Monday afternoon.
No basket was bigger than junior guard Tyler Crosbie's 3-point basket with three minutes remaining that gave the Mustangs the lead for good at 38-35.
"Mo (Famafili Laulu-Pututau) jumped down the lane, kicked it out to me, and I just hit the 3," said Crosbie. "It was great to get that three-point lead when we needed it."
The game couldn't have started much better for Mountain Crest, which jumped out to an early 8-0 lead.
"The way we started — you couldn't have scripted it any better," said Buchmiller. "We did what we wanted defensively. … I thought that we executed well — we got the ball inside and got some easy baskets and that always helps."
Hillcrest was able to play on even terms after being hit in the mouth, but still found itself down 25-19 at the half.
The third quarter saw the Huskies hold the Mustangs to just six points, using a tight zone defense that eliminated a lot of the easy looks they were giving up early. They entered the fourth quarter tied at 31-31 with the first-round upset well within their sights.
"They (Hillcrest) were doing a good job keeping the ball out of the middle with that zone," said Buchmiller. "With that little zone stuff we just couldn't find the gaps like we usually do and credit to them for how they played it."
The game went back and forth until the three-minute mark when Crosbie hit that critical shot.
A big key to the game was limiting Husky leading-scorer Austin Adams, who finished with just four points. The senior forward was completely off his normal game from start to finish — hitting just 2-of-10 shots while missing all five of his 3-point attempts. He had some open looks late, but missed on five straight down the stretch.
"I felt that we were able to hold Adams where we wanted to," said Buchmiller. "He really had to work to get some shots and he's a great player — a great scorer."
Mountain Crest was led by Crosbie and Laulu-Pututau, who each scored 13 points. Eddy Hall led the team in rebounds and in assists and eight and five, respectively. Hillcrest was led by forward Tanner Dastrup, who finished with 11 points.
With the win, the Mustangs move on to meet Provo in the quarterfinals.