Thunder blowout Tigers in battle for first

ST. GEORGE – The Desert Hills Thunder clinched at least a share of the Region 9 title last night after defeating the Hurricane Tigers 59-39 at Desert Hills High School on senior night. The Thunder now control their own destiny with one game left.

Thunder senior guard Brandon Simister knew how big this game was coming in: “One of our goals is to win the Region and we knew if we won tonight we got to cut down the nets,” he said.

Simister capped off senior night by cutting down the nets but not before producing a triple-double, scoring 10 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists.

The Thunder jumped out to an 11-point halftime lead only to watch it disappear in the first few minutes of the second half. “Boston (Gubler) and Colton (Marshall) are great players and we knew they were going to make a run out of the half, we just had to capitalize with a run of our own.”

The Tigers started the second half on an 11-2 run by pushing the ball inside and forcing the Thunder to take outside shots, trimming an 11-point deficit to only two.

With the Thunder up 33-31 midway thru the third quarter Thunder coach Steve Melessa called timeout, “I had to remind the boys of what got us ahead, we need to start taking the ball to the basket again on offense and start double-teaming the post entries on defense.”

In big moments, in big games, big time players seem to always rise to the occasion.  Rise he did, Thunder star senior, Tyler Ott, scored six straight points pushing the lead back to eight and ending the Tiger run. Just when you thought Ott was finished he got a defensive rebound, pushed the ball down the floor and hit forward Mike Needham with a no-look pass for a wide-open layup.

On the next Tiger position the Thunder forced a turnover and Ott leaked out in front of everyone receiving the pass and throwing down a rim-rattling two-hand slam-dunk.

Ott single-handedly pushed the Thunder lead to 12, the largest of the game. Ott scored eight points in the run that lasted fewer than three minutes. Ott’s assists allowed him to account for all 10 points in the run.

After the dunk the Tigers needed a timeout to try and regroup. Early in the game the Tigers were able to go inside to Boston Gubler and Colton Marshall and get the easy layups but in the second half the passing lanes were not there. Marshall finished with a team high 14 points and seven rebounds despite going 0-6 from the free-throw line. Gubler added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Tigers.

Ott had a big night as well on senior night, scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds. Fellow senior Jaden Beckstrand added 10 points and five rebounds.

Simister and the rest of the Thunder seniors’ night had the perfect ending, being pulled with just over one minute to play to a standing ovation at the Thunder Dome. After the game the Thunder players, trainers, managers, and coaches got to cut down the net for being Region Champions.

The Thunder improve to 9-2 in region play, 17-3 overall. The Thunder have Friday off and will play at Pine View on Wednesday night, Feb. 15. If the Thunder win they will have the outright Region championship and the No. 1 seed in the state tournament.

The Tigers have no time to get down as they travel to Snow Canyon on Friday night. The Tigers will get their best shot as the Warriors have to win out to force a play in game with Dixie. The Tigers fall to 7-3 in region play and 13-5 overall but own the tiebreaker over Cedar for the second seed. The second seed gets a first round home game while the third seed has to go on the road in the first round.

The game between the Hurricane Tigers and the Snow Canyon Warriors can be heard on Fox News 96.7fm 1450am at 7 p.m. or online at www.kznusports.com

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Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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