ST. GEORGE — Perhaps still feeling the effects of a shocking region-opening loss to Dixie two nights ago, Desert Hills came out flat and dropped a 61-55 defeat at the hands of Spanish Fork Friday night in the Ken Robinson Classic at Dixie High.
Benson Rhees and the Dons (3-0) remained undefeated with their hard-fought win in the Hangar. Spanish Fork forged a double-digit lead in the second half. DH pulled to within three, but could never quite get over the hump. Sharp free throw shooting saved the day for SF. The Dons made 20 of 23 in the game, with guards Benson Rhees and Hayes Hall combining on 13 of 14 attempts, most of them in the fourth quarter.
“We expected a battle and that’s exactly what it was,” said Rhees, a junior who had 23 points. “We played good team defense in the first half and knocked down our free throws in the second half. We haven’t beaten them in four years and it’s nice to finally get a win for our seniors.”
Both teams started out slow with 6-foot-8 center Taylor Parker and senior guard Moses Eyere sinking the first four points for the Dons. The Thunder finally got it going and the first period ended with DH leading 11-10 after senior guard Sam Messinger sank a trey with 1:09 left in the quarter.
Neither team could buy a bucket through the first five minutes of the second quarter. Hall, Eyere and Parker Bowman all scored for the Dons, while Quincy Mathews and Taylor Houston kept DH close through much of the quarter. Spanish Fork started to get some momentum with Rhees sinking another trey to put the Dons up 30-24 at the half.
Spanish Fork pulled ahead 34-24 in the first four minutes of the second half with Rhees, Hall and Hunter Schofield all making big contributions. The Thunder made a valiant comeback, playing aggressive defense followed by a spectacular blocked shot by Jordan Hokanson with 2:18 remaining in the third.
But the Dons took a nine-point lead to end the third quarter when Parker scored on a fast break and then Rhees hit another trey, maing it 39-30.
In the fourth quarter, SF reserve center Hunter Schofield converted on a drive down the middle of the lane for the Dons. Parker and Eyere were impressive, dominating the scoring for Spanish Fork and stretching the lead to 48-40 halfway through the fourth.
DH clawed its way back with senior guard Landen Broadhead and Matthews leading the way. The Thunder fought their way back to within three points at 58-55 with just 43.6 left in the game. Parker and Rhees sealed the deal for the Dons by hitting four clutch free throws at the end to deter the Desert Hills comeback try.
“We love playing Desert Hills, they always have a good team,” Spanish Fork coach Jesse Roberts said. “I am really proud of our defense and we battled all the way.”
Thunder coach Wade Turley was philosophical after the second straight loss.
“We didn’t play with intensity against Dixie and we didn’t step up and give ourselves a chance to win against a quality team tonight,” he said. “We are a team that likes to bloody our knuckles and we are a little more successful when we play that way.”
Unlike the Dons, DH was plagued at the free throw line throughout the evening, hitting only 10 of 16 (63 percent) at the stripe. Desert Hills made just 18 of 32 (56 percent) against Dixie two nights earlier.
“We need to limit our turnovers and shoot the ball better,” Turley said.
Desert Hills, which falls to 2-3 on the season, got 11 points from Mathews and 10 from Messinger. The Thunder play Springville at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the final game of the Ken Robinson Classic at Dixie High.
Spanish Fork, which got 12 from Parker and 9 from Hall, actually plays two games Saturday. The Dons will battle Dixie at 10:30 a.m. and then face Canyon View in Cedar City on their way home Saturday evening.
Stats via Maxpreps: SFHS 61, DHHS 55
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