The Tooele boys basketball team was tantalizingly close to one of the biggest upsets of the Region 10 season on Friday night at Tooele High School.
The Buffaloes trailed Juan Diego by just one point with 41.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter after Justin Rogers drained a 3-pointer from the right corner. Even after the Soaring Eagle drained two free throws to extend their lead to three, the Buffs still had a chance to force overtime as Nate Begnaud fired a would-be game-tying attempt as the clock ticked down. However, Begnaud’s shot rimmed out, allowing Juan Diego to escape with a 50-47 win to remain unbeaten in region play, while Tooele suffered its second region loss in three days.
Tooele (7-8, 3-2 Region 10) trailed 43-33 entering the fourth quarter after being outscored 14-7 in the third. However, the Buffs gained some momentum almost immediately as Julian Mahoe converted a traditional 3-point play on their first possession of the period, sparking a 9-2 run. Mahoe had another bucket, Rogers hit a free throw and Carston Hyre drained a deep 3-pointer from the right wing with just over four minutes remaining to close the gap to 45-42.
The Soaring Eagle (13-2, 5-0) had a quick response, as Jag Martin’s 3-pointer put Juan Diego ahead by six with 3:22 left. That was Juan Diego’s last field goal of the game as the Buffs made it interesting down the stretch. Rogers hit a jumper from the free-throw line on an inbounds play to make it a four-point game with just over three minutes left, setting up a dramatic finish.
Rogers finished the game with 26 points and 11 rebounds, hitting 10-of-16 shots from the field and 2-of-5 from 3-point range. He scored 11 of Tooele’s 15 first-quarter points, with Mahoe scoring the other four.
Tooele took its only lead of the game with 2:27 left in the second quarter, thanks to a 9-2 run. Begnaud hit a 3-pointer from the deep left wing to pull the Buffs within three points, and after a basket by Juan Diego’s Matty Rodriguez put the Soaring Eagle up five, Rogers and Mahoe combined to score the next six points. Rogers capped the run by overpowering Juan Diego freshman Malick Diallo for a layup as Tooele led 26-25. The Soaring Eagle then scored the final four points of the half to take a 29-26 lead at the break.
Mahoe scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. It was a struggle for the rest of the Buffs, as they were 2-of-14 from the field and 2-of-12 from 3-point range. Begnaud and Hyre each hit a 3-pointer, accounting for the rest of Tooele’s scoring.
Juan Diego’s balanced attack was led by senior Talon Valdez, who scored 14 points. David Kinneberg added 10 and Rodriguez and Martin each scored seven. Diallo had six points and six rebounds and used his length to alter several Tooele shots, and Maui Roopinia had two points.
Tooele is currently tied with Uintah for third in the Region 10 standings, half a game behind second-place Cedar Valley and two games behind Juan Diego. The Buffaloes will face Uintah at home on Wednesday before making the short trip north to face county rival Stansbury on Friday.