OGDEN — The Cuff family is new to the American Fork area, although Caveman basketball coach Ryan Cuff and especially senior forward Tanner Cuff made an impression that will likely last for years during Friday's thrilling 82-80 triple overtime win over Davis in the semifinal round of the boys basketball playoffs.
With just 1.2 seconds left on the clock, Tanner Cuff put the finishing touches on American Fork's remarkable win, breaking free for a layup underneath the basket to give his team an 82-80 lead. Davis had one last gasp, but the desperation shot fell short as the Cavemen celebrated wildly and punched their ticket to the state championship game on Saturday.
“I was so glad I got to redeem myself,” Tanner Cuff, who is in his first year playing for American Fork after his father, Ryan Cuff, took over the head-coaching duties, said of his game-winning shot. “I would have hated myself if I hadn’t have made that layup. I’m just so glad that I was able to redeem myself and get the win.”
Oh yeah, Tanner Cuff did have a chance to win it in the first overtime period but had one of his two foul shots fall short to extend the game.
An extension of any type didn't appear to favor the Cavemen in the least, however, with four of their five starters having fouled out before the start of the second overtime period.
But enter an unheralded bench that was as determined as the starters to get it done, along with Tanner Cuff, who proved the lone starter remaining during the game's most critical stretches.
Knowing so much was on him down the stretch, the former Dixie standout put the scoring weight on his shoulders, scoring 17 of his team's 19 points in the three overtime periods.
“For him to be able to have arms put around him and accept him, and then for him to be able to do some of those things for his teammates … it’s why we do what we do. … You live for these moments,” Ryan Cuff said.
As for the heroes off the bench for American Fork, none of them filled the stat sheet, but each played huge in keeping it close and ultimately helping procure the win.
“They know the system and they’ve given everything all year to play against these guys,” Ryan Cuff said. “The confidence that they came in and had, and gave me as their coach — it’s just very rewarding.”
In order to get the game to even one overtime period, that fell mostly upon the ample shoulders of 6-foot-11 forward Isaac Johnson, who carried his team for most of the third and fourth quarters. With Davis leading 50-41 early in the fourth quarter, Johnson scored 13 of his team's next 15 points to bring the score to 57-56 with just over a minute remaining.
“We knew we had to go to him and get the ball inside,” Ryan Cuff said of Johnson, who finished with 28 points. “… I’m just proud of him that he didn’t quit and kept going, knowing that we still had some life left.”
American Fork appeared poised to win the game in regulation until Davis guard Trevan Leonhardt made a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left in the fourth to send it to overtime.
The teams battled back-and-forth in all three overtime periods with neither team enjoying more than a 2-point lead.
“You just hate to see anybody lose,” Ryan Cuff said. “You kind of want to keep it going on.”1 comment on this story
Leading the way for Davis was Tyson Garff, who scored a team-high 20 with Leonhardt adding 17 and Sampson another 16.
With the win, American Fork advances to the championship game where it will take on Pleasant Grove, the same region foe that narrowly beat them in both games played in the regular season. What's on tap for his team wasn't lost on Ryan Cuff amid all the celebrating for his team's remarkable win.
“You have mixed emotions,” he said. “We’re now in a situation where we have another game to play. …We can’t be satisfied.”