Wendover and Valley appeared to be two equal teams in the first half of their 1A state play-in game Tuesday night. That was until the third quarter when Valley started getting all the hustle points and taking the ball to the basket directly through the Wendover defense.
That third quarter is where Valley outscored Wendover 20-8 and turned a two-point Wildcat lead into a 10-point cushion for Valley. From there, the Buffaloes fought off Wendover to advance to the 1A state tournament and at the same time ending Wendover’s season with a 55- 43 victory in the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.
“Valley seemed like they made some pretty good adjustments at half,” said Wendover head coach Jesse Calder. “We came out a little cold and they heated up a little bit. I am not sure if it was our legs that gave out on us or if we were a little more tired with the longer floor at Richfield.”
James Trujillo started fast for Wendover with five points in the first quarter and went on to lead the team with 13. Antonio Escareno also hit double figures in scoring with 11 in the losing effort. Colton Spencer scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the second half to lead Valley into the tournament and earn an extended stay in Richfield.
After spotting Valley the first four points of the game, Trujillo helped to bring Wendover back. Starting off with a 3-pointer, Trujillo scored five consecutive points to give the Wildcats a 5-4 lead at the 6:22 mark.
The 3-point shooting of Wendover helped them keep the game tight as Escareno also hit a 3 in the quarter for the Wildcats. Colby Spencer managed to get a layup in the closing minutes for Valley to knot the score 10-10 after one.
Wendover jumped all over Valley in the opening minutes of the second with a 5-1 run to open the period. Cesar Contreras added a jumper near the foul line in the run that gave the Wildcats a 15-11 lead with 4:29 left in the half.
Valley fought back to take a slim one-point lead after a offensive rebound and put back by Dallen Esplin gave the Buffaloes a 18-17 lead at the 2:30 mark. Wendover closed out the half on a 4-1 run with buckets by Weston Wadsworth and Escareno to give the Wildcats a 21-19 lead at the break.
“I think we surprised Valley a little bit at the beginning,” Calder said. “I was happy with our effort and we laid it all on the line.”
The third wasn’t a disaster right from the beginning for Wendover as Trujillo opened the half with a 3-pointer for a fivepoint lead. Unfortunately, Valley took advantage of a few holes in the Wendover defense throughout the third.
Valley reeled off a 11-1 run as Morgan Hoyt scored seven points during the run that gave the Buffaloes a 30-25 lead with 3:48 left in the third. Escareno stopped the scoring drought for Wendover with a layup but then Valley answered back with seven straight points.
Hoyt started the seven-point surge that gave Valley a 37-27 lead and scored a total of nine points in the quarter. The Valley lead stayed at 10 at the end of the third, 39-29. A 6-2 run for Valley opened up a 14-point lead for the Buffaloes. Colton Spencer scored four during the run that gave Valley a 45-31 lead with 5:34 left in the game.
Wendover did try getting back into the game as Ernesto Rosales scored four points in the post and Hector Duran nailed a 3- pointer to get the Wildcats within 46-38 with 3:33 left.
Spencer answered right back with a pair of baskets in a 6-0 run that eventually put the game away with a 52-38 lead and only 1:51 left. Spencer came up big in the fourth with eight points and sealed the 12-point victory for Valley.