The Tooele boys basketball team might have started a little slow in Tuesday’s Class 4A first-round state tournament game against Canyon View, but once the Buffaloes got going, there was no stopping them.
No. 14 Tooele went on an 11-0 run in just 2:53 of game time, turning an early four-point deficit into a lead it never relinquished en route to a 52-36 win over the 19th-seeded Falcons at Tooele High School. The Buffs (11-12) will travel to St. George on Friday to face third-seeded Crimson Cliffs in a second-round game.
“Coming out and getting our first-round win is definitely something that gives us some momentum we can build on,” Tooele coach Jed Thomas said.
Canyon View (2-21) led 11-7 with 1:36 left in the first quarter after back-to-back 3-pointers by Andrew Barnes, but didn’t score again until more than four and a half minutes into the second quarter. Tooele senior center Justin Rogers scored to cut the Buffs’ deficit to two points with 1:03 left in the first quarter, and senior guard Carston Hyre converted two free throws to tie the game early in the second.
Rogers put Tooele up 13-11 with 7:02 left in the first half, and added a breakaway dunk after a steal just seconds later. Another Falcons turnover led to a 3-pointer by Rogers to put the Buffs up 18-11.
“I told them coming in that that wasn’t a typical two-win team,” Thomas said. “(The Falcons) play in one of the toughest regions in the state, and they’ve been competitive in some of their games down there. After the first quarter and a little bit of a slow start, we had to crank up the defense, and thankfully, we did and it turned into some good offense for us and gave us some good confidence to get rolling.”
Barnes finally broke the Falcons’ drought with another 3 from the right wing, but Tooele maintained its momentum. The Buffs finished the first half on a 9-2 run, including a dunk and a 3-pointer from Rogers and a conventional 3-point play by junior forward Julian Mahoe as THS took a 27-16 halftime lead.
Tooele then turned its focus to the defensive end. Though the Buffs only scored five points in the third quarter, they limited the Falcons to four. Both teams’ offenses turned up the heat in the final quarter, but Tooele’s Ethan Simmons came off the bench to score eight points to help cancel out 10 points from the Falcons’ Cole Farrow. The Buffaloes also went 10-of-12 from the free-throw line to help seal the victory.
“The most important part of the game was the first four minutes of the third quarter,” Thomas said. “They were going to come out strong coming out of halftime and try to get back in it, and we just couldn’t let them do it. I think we responded pretty good.”
Rogers scored a game-high 24 points, with 12 of those coming in the second quarter. He also had four rebounds and four steals. Simmons had 11 points, McCade Laughlin had seven, and Julian Mahoe had four points, five rebounds and three assists. Hyre, Trevor Zaleski and Pacesen McLaws each had two points.
Farrow led the Falcons with 14 points. Barnes and Brenden Greenhalgh each scored nine.
The Buffs now turn their focus to Crimson Cliffs. The No. 3 Mustangs (18-4) were among the top teams in Class 4A all season, but Thomas felt his team is up to the challenge it faces on Friday night.
“I know they like to play a lot of pressure defense and they like to turn you over as much as possible, and they’ve got some pretty dang good shooters to go with it,” he said. “They’re a pretty complete team, but when we play to our strengths and take care of the ball, I think we can compete with anyone.”
Friday night’s game begins at 7 p.m. The winner will face either No. 6 Cedar City or No. 11 Green Canyon in a state quarterfinal game at 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.