Tied going into the fourth quarter of its Region 10 opener against county rival Stansbury on Wednesday night, the Tooele boys basketball team needed someone to push them over the top.
It was just the kind of situation in which Buffaloes senior center Justin Rogers typically thrives, and this time was no different. Rogers scored 14 of his team’s 19 fourth-quarter points, allowing the Buffs to run away from the Stallions for a 51-46 win at Tooele High School.
“He decided we weren’t going to lose, and he just went to work,” Tooele coach Jed Thomas said. “That was pretty phenomenal. They were doubling him, they had box-and-one on him and it just didn’t matter. He was going to win that game. It was awesome.”
The Stallions (4-5, 0-1 Region 10) had limited Rogers to just 11 points through the first three quarters, and tied the score at 32-32 on a 3-pointer by Bridger Thomas with less than 30 seconds left in the third period. But Rogers outscored Stansbury 10-4 by himself over the first four-plus minutes of the final frame, including an and-one, a 3-pointer from the left corner and a pair of putbacks off offensive rebounds as Tooele (4-6, 1-0) took a 42-36 lead.
“Justin Rogers was the difference,” Stansbury coach Joe White said. “Give it to Justin and his teammates. I still like our kids and the effort we gave.”
Stansbury closed the gap after a personal foul and a technical foul against Tooele’s Nate Begnaud gave the Stallions several free throws. However, the Buffs quickly regained their composure, and McCade Laughlin knocked down a crucial 3-pointer from the right wing to extend the lead to 45-39. On the ensuing Stansbury possession, Rogers deflected a Stansbury pass to teammate Trevor Zaleski, who found Rogers in the open court for a breakaway dunk to put the Buffs up eight points with a minute and a half left.
“We’ve watched a lot of film on them,” Thomas said. “Stansbury worked incredibly hard tonight. They hustled and they got a lot of loose balls, so I’ve got to give them a lot of credit, but when you’ve got Justin Rogers, that overcomes a lot of flaws.”
Stansbury closed to within five points with under 30 seconds left before another Rogers dunk put the game out of reach.
The Stallions started the game off strong, as Stansbury used an 11-2 run to take a 16-8 first-quarter lead. The spurt included a deep 3-pointer from guard Kru Huxford, as well as strong inside play from Dave Spaulding and Logan Richins and a jumper from the top of the key from Landen Giles.
“I thought our defensive execution was good,” White said. “We need to make shots. We had open looks and we didn’t knock them down, and they did.”
Tooele limited Stansbury to six second-quarter points while scoring 13 of its own, taking a 19-18 lead on a 3-pointer by Begnaud that capped a 7-0 run. The Buffs led 23-22 at halftime, and the lead changed hands four times in a back-and-forth third quarter that included a 3-point play by Stansbury’s William Hinton and 3-pointers by Laughlin and Rogers.
Rogers finished with a game-high 25 points and Laughlin added 10. Julian Mahoe had seven points, Carston Hyre had four, Begnaud had three and Zaleski added two.
“We really needed that (win),” Thomas said. “I think that will be a good momentum-builder for us moving forward.”
Spaulding led a balanced Stansbury attack with 10 points. Huxford and Richins had eight points each, Giles had seven, Jacob White had five, Thomas had four, Hinton had three and Crew Schlappi had one point.
“This wasn’t an effort loss,” Joe White said. “We played hard. We rebounded well — we didn’t really rebound in the fourth quarter, so I’ll have to look at the film and see what happened there.”
Tooele will travel to Ogden for its first Region 10 road game of the season Friday night, while Stansbury will play host to Ben Lomond.