By Kurt Johnson
HOLLADAY – Scoring droughts will kill you in any basketball game, but when you’re facing a quality opponent on a neutral floor, it’s particularly difficult.
The Murray High basketball team is one of the most talented teams in the state and is considered to be among the favorites in Class 4A. Wednesday night, facing a 7-1 West Jordan team that is playing very well, a rough third quarter cost the Spartans any chance of a win.
After carrying a 35-33 advantage into intermission, Murray scored just seven points in the third quarter. When the Jaguars took care of business at the free throw line down the stretch, they held on for a big 64-57 non-league win at the Utah Autism Holiday Classic played at Olympus High School.
The game began as a back-and-forth battle featuring the shooters on both sides. Zach Dickerson and Peyton Christman combined for five first-half 3-pointers, and 23 points for Murray, which led 35-33 at the break. West Jordan’s answers came from a dozen Jacob Lowery points and eight points scored by Darrian Nebeker.
When the Spartans’ shooting went south during the third, Nebeker took control of the game in the paint for West Jordan as the Jaguars took a four-point lead by the end of the third stanza. Nebeker and 6-foot-3 senior forward Jordan Lowery dominated the game on the glass as it headed into the fourth period, and 5-11 junior guard Collin Larson was on target with 6-of-8 fourth-quarter free throws as the Jaguars held off the Murray charge, which was led by 6-foot senior guard AJ Hodges.
Hodges was relatively quite during the first half, but he scored four of his team’s seven points in the third, and then dropped nine more in the fourth as he asserted himself offensively in trying to will his team to the comeback that wasn’t to be. West Jordan refused to allow the Spartans to get close enough to gain the momentum required to get over the top and finished things off late.
Hodges scored 15 points and grabbed six boards for Murray, while Dickerson and Christman each scored 14 for the Spartans. Nebeker scored 18 to lead the way for the Jaguars to go with his nine rebounds, while Jacob Lowery finished with the same 12 points he had at the half and Jordan Lowery also scored in double digits with 10.
Murray (6-3) was scheduled to meet Fremont Thursday and then Highland Saturday to finish its participation at the Utah Autism Holiday Classic. West Jordan (8-1) faced tournament host Olympus Thursday and will face Judge Memorial Saturday afternoon to close out the week.