I got great coaches, (I asked them) what play do they want, and had three suggestions, but I knew what I was going to do. Get the ball to Puka (Nacua) and (have him) go make a play. —Orem basketball coach Golden Holt
OREM — Orem basketball coach Golden Holt had plenty of suggestions on what to call, but only one of them made sense; Get the ball to Puka Nacua and let him do his thing.
The situation was a home game versus American Fork on Tuesday, with the Cavemen taking a late 51-49 lead off a 3-pointer from Trey Stewart with just 10.1 seconds left in regulation. Holt, whose team had led throughout, called timeout and laid out his plan.
"I got great coaches, (I asked them) what play do they want, and had three suggestions, but I knew what I was going to do," Holt said. "Get the ball to Puka and (have him) go make a play."
The 6-foot-2 two-sport star took the ball at the top of the key and drove right, which wasn't his preference, before scooping the ball up and around his defender and into the basket just a split-second before the final buzzer.
"That was one shot I'll remember for a long time," Nacua said.
Of course, the shot didn't win it for the Tigers, but Nacua stepped up again in overtime, scoring all of his team's eight points to walk away with a 59-55 win.
The points where nice to have in the overtime period, but it was a stellar defensive play Nacua made that stood out.
With the Tigers clinging to a 54-53 lead just under a minute remaining in the overtime period, American Fork's Isaac Johnson drove the lane for a would-be layup before Nacua stepped in front of him, drawing a charging foul.
"My ribs still kill because Isaac Johnson — he's a beast," Nacua said. "In my head, I was saying, 'You're going to regret this,' but I took the charge. but it was totally worth it."
Nacua scored a game-high 25 points, with 24 of those points coming after halftime. Up 22-21 at the half, Holt encouraged his play-making guard to be more assertive on offense — particularly during the fourth quarter.
"With about six minutes left, I looked at Puka and told him, 'We're riding you. We're putting the saddle on you,'" Holt said. "And he really stepped up and did it."
Also stepping up was American Fork late, with the 6-11 Johnson proving tough for Orem to handle — particularly without starting center Taylor Hockersmith, who fought foul trouble throughout before fouling out early in the second half.
"Taylor got us going early but the fouls ended up being tough," Holt said. "But Isaac Richards is just a man. He's the toughest 6-2 guy, and he's the guy who had to guard Johnson for the rest of the night."
Johnson finished with a team-high 20 points.
With the win, Orem improves to 4-2 on the year and looks well-prepared for Region 10 play after some quality wins, which certainly includes Tuesday's win over one of 6A's best programs.
"This game was scheduled by design for our goals at the end of the season," Holt said. "So it was a great opportunity for our team."
American Fork falls to 5-3 with the loss.
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