By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography)
LEHI – In Region 4 boys basketball, every game is crucial. The talent level is once again high in the league, and someone is going to be left at home when the postseason party gets started.
That brought an even more heightened sense of urgency to Friday night’s Pleasant Grove visit to Lehi High. The Vikings withstood a furious late Lehi rally to claim a 79-74 victory that puts the two teams into a tie for the all-important fourth-place spot in the state’s most hotly contested region.
After falling behind during the Pioneer’s red-hot second stanza, Pleasant Grove seized control of the game during the third and first five minutes of the fourth period. After riding the rim-attacking scoring of Brody Childs to stay in the game at the start, it was the long-range shooting of Kegan Coon that carried the Vikings throughout the second half.
Childs scored 14 points in the first quarter, while Coon saved his scoring barrage for later in the contest. Coon drained six 3-pointers on the night, five of them coming after intermission, and four of those in a 14-point third period.
The Pioneers led 42-34 at the break, but an 11-2 run fueled by a pair of Coon treys and another 3-pointer from David Peterson put Pleasant Grove on top early in the third. By the time the game hit the point with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a nine-point advantage at 72-63, and it appeared the home team was finished.
Enter Marcus Draney, who had contributed to the Pioneer effort to that point with three assists, a steal and a couple of rebounds, while not scoring a point. After point guard Ethan Tuckett drained a three-ball at the 2:15 mark that cut the margin to six points, Draney’s defense was the story of the Lehi comeback that fell just short.
First up, with 1:15 to go, Draney got into a passing lane for a steal, and after being fouled on his way to the rim, he buried a pair from the charity stripe. Four seconds later, Draney created another turnover that Lehi was not able to turn into points.
With 48 seconds to go, Draney stole an in-bounds pass and scored on a lay-up to cut the deficit to two points at 72-70. Suddenly, a game that had appeared all but over was very much in doubt.
Peterson hit two free throws to extend the advantage back to four points, but with 32 seconds left, Lehi countered on a Tanner Nygren lay-up that came from a sweet pass from Chase Berry. Then, after Coon hit on 1-of-2 from the stripe, Draney went off glass for a bucket at the 14-second mark to get the margin down to a single point at 75-74. The Pioneers fouled Peterson again, and he connected on both shots, but that left Lehi with nearly 10 seconds and within a 3-pointer of forcing overtime.
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, a bad pass led to a turnover and that was the final nail. Coon drained both freebies this time to set the final margin.
Pleasant Grove had a narrow two-point margin after an exciting opening quarter as Childs scored 14 of the Vikings’ 21 points. Tuckett and Blaze Nield kept Lehi in contact during that stretch, and with Nygren picking up the scoring during the second stanza, along with a strong period by Jensen Hawkins off the bench, the Pioneers built that 42-34 halftime lead.
From there, it was Nygren scoring at the rim as he tried to keep his team close enough for that final run, but those Coon long balls proved to be just too much for Lehi to overcome.
Nygren finished the night with 21 points and five rebounds for the Pioneers (3-3 in Region 4, 11-6 overall), and Nield scored 17, with three assists and three steals. Tuckett dropped in 13 points and dished out five assists, while Hawkins scored nine of his 11 points in that second period. Draney tallied all eight of his points in the fourth, and also ended the night with four assists and four steals.
Pleasant Grove (3-3, 12-4) got 25 points and five boards from Coon, and 18 points with seven rebounds from Childs. Matt McCarty scored 13 points, pulled nine rebounds and dished out four assists for the Vikings, while Peterson added 12 points and five assists.
Lehi is on the road Tuesday to open the second half of league play against Riverton (0-6, 5-12), while Pleasant Grove is off until next Friday, when it faces second-place Westlake (4-2, 14-2), which needed double overtime to knock off the Vikings to open region play three weeks ago.