HURRICANE – “Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships.” The famous quote from heralded Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt was not directed at Desert Hills coach Wade Turley, but it seems the Thunder have placed significant emphasis on the latter two.
Desert Hills traveled to Hurricane and played stellar defense, holding the Tigers to 27 percent shooting, and displayed excellent fundamentals, blocking out the smaller Hurricane squad and out-rebounding their opponent, 34-13.
“We knew that we were facing a good perimeter shooting team,” Turley said. “We keyed on their shooters and made sure to close out on them to limit their 3-point effectiveness.”
Quincy Mathews, who led Desert Hills with 15 points and 10 rebounds, spoke of the importance of boxing out.
“Our rebounding drills are a significant part of our preparation,” he said. “It has been drilled into us repeatedly — don’t chase the rebound. Find your man and put a body on him.”
The Tigers jumped out early behind two baskets apiece from Cody LeBaron and Austen Beatty, taking an 8-3 lead midway through the first quarter. The Thunder responded with six straight to end the quarter with a 9-8 advantage. They would not trail again.
The Tigers did keep within striking distance the first half though, as Beatty and LeBaron scored 18 of Hurricane’s 20 first-half points. The Thunder went into the locker room with a six-point advantage, 26-20.
“At halftime, the coaches challenged us to step up our defense,” said Thunder forward Taylor Houston. “They challenged us to keep Hurricane to 35 points. And we were able to do that by limiting them to just three points in the fourth quarter.”
The decisive third quarter saw the Thunder start with an 8-0 run. And two minutes into the second half, the Tigers faced a double-digit deficit, 34-20. Hurricane kept pace after that and trailed 45-32 going into the fourth.
Instead of closing when they had to, the fourth quarter saw the Thunder take several minutes off the clock with a controlled motion stall. Desert Hills outscored the Tigers 9-3 in the final stanza.
The Thunder took advantage of their size on the offensive end as Matthews, Houston, Austin Adams and Trey Tanner got several looks inside the lane. The Thunder bigs accounted for 69 percent of the offense. Desert Hills shot 44 percent from the floor, hitting 19 of 43 shots.
“We have great chemistry inside,” said Matthews. “Tay(lor) (Houston), Trey (Tanner) and I have tremendous trust in each other and play very well together.”
Conversely, Hurricane struggled, hitting only 14 out of 52, with only three field goals in the second half.
“We were getting good looks,” said Hurricane head coach Todd Langston. “Not only outside, but inside the lane as well. They came up short. When we hit those shots, we are tough to beat. But when we miss, it is a different story.”
Matthews led all players with 15 points. Adams chipped in eight. For Hurricane, Beatty and LeBaron scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The victory moves Desert Hills to 7-5 overall, 2-1 in region play. The Thunder will continue region play at Canyon View on January 15th. Hurricane drops to 5-8 and 1-2. The Tigers will travel to Cedar on Friday for another region contest.
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