ST. GEORGE – The Desert Hills Thunder are starting to mesh … and that may be bad news for the rest of the region.
The winning streak comes on the heels of a three-game losing streak and now evens up the DH record at 4-4. Not only that, but star Taylor Houston is starting to get his basketball feel back. His line — 14 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 5 of 6 from the floor and 4 of 4 from the line — is by far his best of the young season. Houston, a preseason all-region selection, has struggled early this year after helping the DH football team win a state championship.
“It’s taken a little longer than we thought it would for us to mesh after adding the football guys,” DH head coach Wade Turley said. “It was nice to see Taylor hit all those free throws. He’s struggled a bit. But we feel like things are coming together.”
It was clear early on that Desert Hills had the better team Thursday evening. But despite leading virtually the entire game, the Thunder couldn’t quite shake the Mustangs. Jon Huff kept the game close in the first half with eight points and Mountain Crest hug around, eventually making it 28-25 at the break, with DH staying ahead on the strength of 8 for 9 from the free throw line.
Desert Hills pushed the lead out to a dozen at 41-29 late in the third quarter, but the Mustangs closed the third on a 5-1 run to make it 42-34. With the margin at 44-39 early in the fourth quarter, the Thunder went on a 10-0 run, with Quincy Mathews getting a putback, Landen Broadhead nailing an open 3-pointer, Trey Tanner hitting a pair of free throws and H0uston converting a three-point play. Mt. Crest turned the ball over three times in that stretch and, with the score at 54-39 with 3:39 left in the game, it was all over.
“It was a hard transition going from football to basketball,” said Broadhead, who scored the game-winning touchdown on the last play of the football season for the state-champion Thunder. “It’s a whole different set of skills. But I’m pretty sure we’re over it now. This team is not used to losing, so it was tough dropping three in a row like that.”
Mathews, who was not on the football team, had 11 points Thursday. He has, in a lot of ways, carried the Thunder during this transition phase, leading the team in scoring (12 ppg) and rebounding (6 rpg).
“We’re starting to bond well now, but last week was not good,” he said. “We played terrible against Dixie. We didn’t score more than 40 points. We just had to learn to trust each other.”
Two of the areas of concern for Turley and his staff during the losing streak were turnovers and missed free throws. For the second straight game, DH did a good job of taking care of the ball and the Thunder were good at the line, making 18 of 24 (75 percent).
“Even in those losses we played pretty good defense,” Turley said. “Defense is who we are and if we can take better care of the ball and hit the open shots, we have a chance to be where we want to be.”
Nine different players scored in the rout for D-Hills, which improved to 4-4 overall. The Thunder play play Salem Hills (2-3) at 1:30 p.m. at Burns Arena as the Red Rock Rumble continues at Dixie State.
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