It wasn’t the Tooele boys basketball team’s best effort on either end of the floor in Wednesday’s Region 10 home finale against Cedar Valley.
A sluggish offense managed 13 points in the first half, including just two in the second quarter, and Cedar Valley’s Cole Roberts made the Tooele defense pay for leaving him open by knocking down five 3-pointers. The result was a 47-41 win for the visiting Aviators, dealing the Buffaloes (10-11, 6-5 Region 10) a tough blow with the postseason brackets set to be revealed on Saturday morning.
“We couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Tooele coach Jed Thomas said. “We struggled in the first half. Our defense was doing OK, but it was tough to get things rolling.”
The teams were tied at 11-11 after the opening quarter. The Buffs had taken an 11-6 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by senior Justin Rogers, but the Aviators (11-7, 7-5) answered with a basket by Lincoln Roberts and a 3-pointer from the wing by Cole Roberts. That marked the beginning of a 14-2 Cedar Valley run that spanned nearly 10 minutes, and the Aviators never trailed again.
Rogers went to the bench early in the second quarter after picking up his second foul of the game, leaving the Buffs without their top offensive weapon. That led to multiple missed opportunities, as Tooele forced six Cedar Valley turnovers in the second quarter but didn’t score until Julian Mahoe’s layup with 3:40 left in the frame.
“We had a lack of energy, especially in the first half,” Thomas said. “We were just kind of going through the motions a lot.”
Meanwhile, Cole Roberts put the Aviators in front with a corner 3 just after Rogers went to the bench, and Jackson Rose took advantage of the Buffs’ missing post presence with a layup that gave Cedar Valley a 16-11 lead. Tyler Christensen and Cole Roberts hit shots later in the period to put the Aviators up 20-13 at halftime.
Rogers returned in the third quarter and gave the Buffs a huge offensive spark, knocking down three 3-pointers and cutting the Aviators’ lead to one point on three different occasions. However, Cole Roberts also had three 3s in the period, two of which came directly after Rogers connected from long distance.
“If only we could have had a little better defense on that sucker — he lit us up,” Thomas said. “We let Cole get going there and hit a bunch of 3s. We didn’t play great team basketball, especially defensively.”
Cedar Valley led 33-30 after three quarters, and managed to hold on from there. The Buffs cut the Aviators’ lead to a single point after a pair of free throws by Trevor Zaleski with 4:13 left, and appeared primed to take the lead after a steal. However, a traveling call gave the ball back to Cedar Valley, and a bucket by Christensen, a layup off a scramble by Rose and a pair of free throws by Dallin Rupper put the Aviators comfortably in front.
Rogers had 17 points for Tooele. Mahoe had seven, and freshman Dillon Polson hit two 3s for six points. Zaleski had six points, Carston Hyre had three and McCade Laughlin had two.
Cole Roberts had 20 points for the Aviators to lead all scorers. Rose had 10 points and Rupper added seven.
The Buffaloes will face Uintah in Friday night’s Region 10 finale in Vernal. The Class 4A state tournament will begin with first-round games on Tuesday, with the second round scheduled for Feb. 26.
“I was really thinking we could get both of these games, but Cedar Valley had other plans,” Thomas said. “We really need (Friday) to give us momentum. It’s tough going out and playing at Uintah.”