Boys 3A State Tournament: Thunder’s cold-shooting costly in quarterfinal loss

Desert Hills vs. Juan Diego, 3A State Basketball Tournament, Boys Basketball, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 25, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

CEDAR CITY – Sometimes you live by the 3-pointer, sometimes you die by the 3-pointer.

Desert Hills had a great season shooting the ball from outside, but the 3s weren’t falling Thursday at the state tournament and Juan Diego’s triples were going down, resulting in a 62-52 Soaring Eagle victory in the 3A quarterfinals.

juan-diego-logodesert-hills-logo“We just couldn’t get shots to fall today,” Thunder coach Wade Turley said. “To go 1 for 14 from 3, and we’re a 3-point shooting team, just isn’t going to cut it.”

Things started OK for Desert Hills and they even led by four in the first quarter and early in the second. But the Soaring Eagle started hitting shots in the last five minutes of the second period. The result was a turnaround in fortunes. With Maliik Fagan-Foster firing away (the big guy even hit a 3-pointer) from inside and out, Juan Diego started to take control of the game.

Desert Hills' Cody Fitzgerald (50), Desert Hills vs. Juan Diego, 3A State Basketball Tournament, Boys Basketball, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 25, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Desert Hills’ Cody Fitzgerald (50), Desert Hills vs. Juan Diego, 3A State Basketball Tournament, Boys Basketball, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 25, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Fagan-Foster and Avery Ames turned it up a notch in the second, leading Juan Diego to a 26-20 halftime lead. The Soaring Eagle outscored D-Hills 14-7 in the quarter.

“We started pretty shaky,” Juan Diego coach Drew Trost said. “I think we had three or four unforced turnovers right at the beginning and that was a cause for concern. But I was really proud of how they got their composure, gathered themselves and then really started playing good basketball.”

Turley said he was impressed with how well his team rebounded in the first half. But he saw the Soaring Eagle come out on fire after intermission. Within a couple of minutes after the the break, Juan Diego had pushed the lead to double digits.

Desert Hills' Logan Hokanson (23), Desert Hills vs. Juan Diego, 3A State Basketball Tournament, Boys Basketball, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 25, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Desert Hills’ Logan Hokanson (23), Desert Hills vs. Juan Diego, 3A State Basketball Tournament, Boys Basketball, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 25, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“We got good shots and rebounded well, but they just weren’t going in,” Turley said. “That happens in these big arenas, but we try to prepare for it by playing at Burns Arena and up in Richfield. It just wasn’t our night.”

Juan Diego only had one turnover in the third quarter and shot the ball well enough to push the advantage out to 44-31 by the time the third-quarter buzzer sounded.

“From about the four-minute mark of the first quarter on, we really played well,” Trost said. “We really felt like we could take more advantage of them inside, in the post and on the drives and that’s what we talked about at halftime. We shot too many 3s in the first half, but in the second we only took seven and made four.”

Juan Diego ended up 7 for 17 from deep, much more impressive than the paltry 1 for 14 shot by Desert Hills.

The Thunder did make a couple of runs at the deficit in the fourth quarter, cutting the Juan Diego lead  down to six on two different occasions. But JDHS had the answer every time, with Fagan-Foster (20 points) and Ames (19) leading the way.

Logan Hokanson led the way for DH with 15 points, but he did it on 2 for 14 shooting. His saving grace was his 11 for 14 from the free throw line. Cody Fitzgerald was the lone Thunder player to shoot well. He made all six of his field goals and ended up with 13 points. Tanner Turley had 10.

Desert Hills, 17-6, made just 17 of 49 shots (35 percent) in the game, but did hit 17 of 26 free throws (68 percent).

Juan Diego, 17-8, advances to the state semifinals. The Soaring Eagle will play Canyon View Friday night at 9:10 p.m. with the winner heading to the state championship game Saturday afternoon.

The Thunder will play a consolation game at 2:30 p.m. Friday against region rival Pine View. The Thunder swept PV in two games during the regular season.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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