When Desert Hills faced Cedar in the Region 9 opener last month at home, they watched the Redmen score 26 third-quarter points to turn around a halftime deficit.
On Wednesday night, the Thunder reversed roles and put down the defensive clamps to tighten the race at the top of the standings.
Trey Tanner and Ty Rutledge each had nine points, but it took two free throws from Brycen Williams with 6.4 seconds remaining to secure Desert Hills’ 47-43 victory over Cedar and snap the Reds’ winning streak at nine.
The Thunder moved into sole possession of third place in the Region 9 standings at 5-2 (12-4 overall) and knocked Cedar back into a tie for first with Snow Canyon at 6-1 (12-4).
“They play really well here, but we were really hungry,” Desert Hills coach Wade Turley said. “We’re going to fight, scratch, claw and do all we can to get a victory.”
Cedar continued its season-long pattern of starting slow and coming through in the second half with a big run to take the lead. This time, though, Desert Hills had an answer.
Trailing 36-29 midway through the third quarter, the Thunder went on a 13-0 blitz. They scored the final seven points of the period — four free throws from Chase Thompson and a three-point play from Quincy Matthews with 2.8 seconds left that knotted the score at 36-36 — and the first six of the fourth when Tanner converted a three-point play and Rutledge drained a 3-pointer that got the Thunder supporters cheering loudly and forced Cedar to call a timeout.
“That was a crazy quarter, probably the most fun I’ve had in my high-school career,” said Tanner, who was making his first start of the season. “The run was crucial. We had to fight back.”
Mike Hourigan, who led all scorers with 14 points, hit three baskets in the fourth quarter to ignite Cedar’s last push, but the senior point guard was whistled for an offensive foul with 46.3 seconds left, preserving a 43-42 Thunder lead.
Thompson would add two free throws with 29.4 seconds remaining, but Ryan Armstrong made only one of two from the line. When Williams hit his only free throw attempts of the game, it gave the Thunder the cushion they needed to exhale.
Not that Williams was feeling any nerves or knocked knees.
“I’ve been clutch on my free throws,” Williams said confidently. “We needed momentum because Cedar’s been beating teams in the third quarter.”
For the game, both teams did well at the line. Desert Hills was 14-of-17 while Cedar finished 12-of-16. It was of little consolation to coach Craig Cardon, who watched his team get outrebounded by a 34-16 margin.
“They just outplayed us. We didn’t make plays down the stretch. We didn’t make plays from the opening tip,” Cardon said. “They had emotion, did their stuff, and hit the shots they needed to make.”
The Thunder led by as many as nine in the first half, but the Reds used an 11-1 run to take its first lead of the game at 24-23 with 1:37 left on two free throws from Hourigan. After Matthews hit a basket, Kordan Nielson drained two more free throws with 6.8 seconds remaining that put Cedar up 26-25 at the break.
RPRISE 48, PAROWAN 41: Justin Prisbrey had 21 points as the Wolves won their ninth straight game overall and beat the Rams to move into sole possession of first place in the Region 13 standings (4-0, 10-7).