ST. GEORGE – Marcus McKone just hit the biggest shot of his life.
Well, melodrama aside, his 3-pointer with 23.9 seconds remaining put the Desert Hills Thunder up by five points on the way to a 52-44 win.
Logan Hokanson started the break on a Panther miss at the other end. The ball ended up in Tanner Turley’s hands, and he drove the paint. Two Pine View defenders collapsed on Turley, so he dished out a pass to McKone, who stood wide open in the corner. He knocked down the 3-pointer to make the score 47-42 — the dagger in the Panthers’ hearts.
“I have confidence to make that shot,” McKone said. “The coaches trust me to make it.”
McKone’s teammates have confidence in him, too.
“He’s earned the right to take that shot,” Quincy Mathews said. “He’s the best shooter on the team, and I trust him to make it.”
Desert Hills coach Wade Turley said the Thunder showed composure to pull away after Pine View grabbed a 42-40 lead with a little more than three minutes left in the game.
“The kids didn’t panic,” he said. “We made our free throws, and Marcus made the big 3-pointer. The defense challenged shots and rebounded to keep Pine View from getting second-chance opportunities.”
Defense shined in Friday’s battle for first place. Austin Adams led the defensively for Desert Hills with four blocks. One of those came with the game tied at 42. Adams swatted a shot away from Pine View’s Kody Wilstead in the paint. Mathews grabbed the rebound on the blocked shot, and Jed Newby fouled him. Mathews hit both free throws at the other end to give the Thunder the lead.
Mathews and McKone led the Thunder in scoring. Mathews scored 22 points, and McKone added 10 with three made baskets from 3-point range. Mathews also reined in 11 rebounds.
Wilstead led Pine View in scoring with 13 points. He also grabbed 14 rebounds, blocked three shots and swiped away two steals. Chaz Petersen followed with 11 points, and Garrett Bowker chipped in 10 points and two rebounds.
Pine View coach Darrell Larsen gave all the credit to Desert Hills for closing the game.
“Our kids battled, but there are things we need to clean up,” Larsen said. “The kids are fighters. This team isn’t overrated. We’ll be back.”
The Panthers made a run trailing 34-26 in the third quarter. Wilstead wheeled around with a post move hook shot, Bowker scored on a fadeaway jump shot from the baseline and Wilstead put in another right-handed push shot from the middle of the paint to round out the third trailing 38-32.
Wilstead kept it going with a contested shot from the baseline and then passed to Newby driving into the paint for a layup. Wilstead scored again, and Blake Ence hit two free throws to tie the game at 40. Petersen gave the Panthers the lead on a jab step fake to create space and switch directions for his shot.
Pine View has just one game next week — a road contest at Canyon View on Wednesday. Desert Hills hosts Snow Canyon on the same day.
Follow Richard Briggs on Twitter, @BriggsRich.