ST. GEORGE – After beginning the season 0-5, the Hurricane Tigers, in less than 24 hours, have now started a streak in the other direction.
After eking out a win against Region 9 foe Dixie Wednesday night, the Tigers played ferocious man-to-man defense and cruised to a 47-31 victory over the Manti Templars Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Red Rock Rumble at Dixie State.
“Our defense has improved with each game,” said Hurricane head coach Todd Langston. “Our shooting was not where we wanted to be earlier this year, but we knew that our defense would eventually lead to easier baskets on the offensive end.”
The first quarter looked like the Tigers’ shooting woes would continue as they were only able to put up four points. The Templars carried a 10-4 lead after one. The second quarter belonged to Hurricane, outscoring Manti 13-4 behind a basket and three free throws from Cody LeBaron.
“When opposing teams play great defense on us, like Manti did today, I have been better about recognizing and taking what has been given to me,” said LeBaron. “They were guarding my outside shot today, so I drove, drew the foul and went to the line.”
For the game, the senior guard was 10 for 11 at the line.
Coming out at halftime, LeBaron increased the lead to 19-14 with two more free throws. Manti responded with an 8-1 run. Sparking the run was Seth Jenkins, who hit two 3-pointers. Enter Hurricane senior guard James Bennion. Bennion went on a 9-0 run himself as he topped Jenkins with three 3-pointers of his own in only 90 seconds of playing time.
“James is probably our purest shooter,” said Langston. “The penetrations and kick outs by the other guards, (Kaden) Langston, (Erik) Mitchell and (Jayce) Housley found James wide open. That run definitely shifted momentum for us.”
Manti narrowed the lead to 29-26 on two baskets before LeBaron closed out the third with an “and one,” putting three up the hard way.
Opening the fourth, the Tigers extended the lead to 12 at the 3:04 mark with an 8-2 run, again sparked by LeBaron, who had a basket and four free throws. Manti was forced to press. Hurricane beat the press and got some easy buckets by Jordan Ence and Bennion.
LeBaron led all scorers with 18. Bennion finished with 11.
Manti falls to 2-3 with the loss and will face Dixie tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. at DSU. Hurricane improves to 2-5 and will face North Sevier at 3:15 tomorrow afternoon.
Stats: HHS 47, MHS 31
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