The Tooele boys basketball team had a ton of reasons to give up in Friday night’s Region 11 home game against Park City.
The Buffaloes had three starters — seniors Mitchell Bunn and Dawson Banks and freshman Justin Rogers — foul out. A fourth starter, senior Jeno Bins, left the game with a knee injury. an 8-0 run midway through the fourth quarter had them trailing by six points with time winding down.
But nothing was going to stop Tooele on this night. With a rag-tag group of rarely used reserves surrounding starter Kyler Hymas, the Buffs outscored the Miners 19-6 over the final four minutes to grab a thrilling 74-67 win and remain unbeaten in Region 11 play.
“This is my favorite game I’ve ever coached in,” Tooele coach Josh Johnsen said. “We were down the entire game, basically — down eight, down 10. It was a hard-fought win and and we don’t lose at home — that’s been our mantra all year.”
Tooele (4-5, 2-0 Region 11) had trailed by as many as nine points in the third quarter before a 13-4 run after Bins got hurt gave the Buffs a 50-48 advantage — their first lead since early in the second quarter. Park City (3-8, 0-2) answered with a 13-5 run of its own to take a 61-55 lead with four minutes to go, but that’s when Tooele made its move.
Junior guard Josh Wilkins, seeing extended playing time with Bins out of the lineup, was 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final four minutes, and Hymas, who led all scorers with 26 points, scored nine points during Tooele’s decisive run. Park City had chances to tie the game late, but couldn’t get shots to fall, allowing the Buffs to escape with a hard-fought win.
“Josh Wilkins was huge for us,” Johnsen said. “He hadn’t been playing all year and he was ready. Erwin Figueroa and Canyon Christensen came in and gave us some great minutes. We were playing with one starter and four guys who hadn’t been playing a lot for the last 2:30 of the game and we came back and won.”
Wilkins finished with 15 points for Tooele, while Bunn had 11 before fouling out with 2:43 left in the game. Banks had eight, Nathan Swan had seven, Bins had five and Rogers had two.
Nathaniel Lowe had 19 points and Ben Hase added 18 for Park City.
“(Park City) coach (Michael) Doleac’s got a young team that’s going to be very, very good in a couple years,” Johnsen said. “They’re already good, but they’ll be even better. I think they’re the most athletic team we’ve played all year so far.”
Tooele has an exciting week in front of it. After a trip to Ben Lomond on Wednesday, the Buffs will travel to Stansbury on Friday for a matchup with the county-rival Stallions — and a potential share of the top spot in the Region 11 standings.
“I’m very happy to be 2-0, and now we’ve just got to keep it going and go on to the next one,” Johnsen said.