OREM — When Orem squandered a fourth-quarter lead in a loss at Timpview last month, Orem coach Golden Holt was as surprised as anyone.
Not to take anything away from Timpview, but Holt believes that with Orem’s experience, outstanding guard play and quality free-throw shooting, there’s no reason it should ever cough up a fourth-quarter lead.
When the opportunity to protect a similar lead against Timpview presented itself again on Friday night, this time the Tigers took care of business — barely.
Trailing by 12 heading into the fourth quarter, Timpview came storming back and even had a chance to tie the game with 38 seconds remaining on a baseline 3-pointer. That shot rimmed out though, and Orem knocked down 5-of-6 free throws in the waning seconds to preserve the 48-42 victory.
“Kind of glad we had a little bit of that where we had to go make some pressure free throws and finish the game,” said Holt. “It’s been a different year for us being state champs. All that matters is March 2 now. Everything we go through right now is good for us. It’s a learning experience, it helps us get better.”
By narrowly holding off Timpview, Orem opened up a one-game lead over the T-Birds in the Region 8 standings with three games remaining.
“We’ve been looking forward to this game for a while, ever since we walked out of Timpview. It was a good win for us, and hopefully we can seal the deal with three more wins,” said Orem’s Zach Hunsaker, who led the Tigers with 16 points.
For the first three quarters on Friday, everything went according to plan for Orem. A 12-0 run early in the second quarter helped the Tigers open a double-digit lead, which they maintained heading into the fourth quarter.
Hunsaker always sensed Timpview would make a run though.
“They’re not going to give up. They’ve only lost one game all season, and they’ve done that for a reason,” he said.
As it typically does, Orem spread the floor and attacked the basket in the fourth quarter. A couple of turnovers opened the door for a T-Bird comeback.
After Timpview cut the deficit to 40-32 on a pair of Britain Covey free throws with 5:18 remaining, Orem carelessly threw the ball out of bounds on its next possession. Timpview’s Dax Raymond converted a 3-point play at the other end to make it 40-35 with 4:08 left.
Hunsaker missed what his coach said was an ill-advised pull-up jumper on Orem’s next possession, which led to a quick transition lay-up by Raymond to make it a 40-37 game.
Incredibly though, Orem made another bad decision as Timpview’s Taylor Roy stole the inbounds pass and a few seconds later made a pair of free throws to make it 40-39 with 3:28 remaining.
“I know championships are won with defense, but you’ve got to keep scoring to win games,” said Holt, who reminded his players of that during a timeout between Roy’s free throws.
Orem came out and did just that.
It milked over a minute off the clock before Hunsaker made a pair of free throws to increase the lead to 42-39. After the teams traded free throws, Timpview found itself trailing 43-40 with 1:19 remaining.
With a region title likely on the line, Orem threw a wrinkle at Timpview with a 3-2 zone. The T-Birds were clearly trying to get the ball into the post to Raymond, but the defense was too compact for an entry pass. Timpview eventually settled for an outside shot, but Luke Sagers’ game-tying shot rimmed out.