ST. GEORGE – Tucker Peterson wasn’t having his best night, and it almost cost Desert Hills its season. Fortunately for the Thunder, Peterson came out of his funk in time to hit two key shots in the last 1:12, including the go-ahead bucket with 2.3 seconds left, and Desert Hills avoided a first-round exit by defeating Green Canyon 65-63 Friday night at the ThunderDome.
“He had a little bit of a rough shooting night, but man, he played hard,” D-Hills coach Wade Turley said about his senior guard. “He really wanted this game. Sometimes when you want things so bad, it doesn’t roll the way you want. But he made the big shot when we needed it.”
Suffering through a terrible shooting night, Peterson saw his team go down by as many as nine to the upstart Wolves. It was 61-53 with under three minutes to go and 61-54 as the clock dwindled under two minutes. That’s when Desert Hills finally made its run.
Trevin Lindstrom’s free throws made it 61-56 with 1:55 on the clock. After a missed one-and-one by Green Canyon, Peterson worked himself free for a mid-range jumper to cut it to 61-58. Trey Allred then stepped in front of a Wolves pass for a steal and got the ball to Tyler Marz, who was fouled. His two charity shots made it 61-60 with 58 seconds left in the game.
“Everything that had to take place for us to win kind of did down the stretch,” Turley said. “Things needed to go just about perfect for us and they did. That’s why you’ve got to show up and stay to the end.”
Another turnover by Green Canyon gave the ball back to Desert Hills just seconds after Marz’ free throws and the Thunder made the Wolves pay. Allred penetrated the defense and found a wide open Lindstrom, who gave D-Hills its first lead since the second quarter with a trey from the angle left. The 3 rattled and then hung on the rim before settling home with 44 seconds left.
“I practice that every day and that practice made it so I was comfortable shooting that shot,” Lindstrom said. “It was a little scary, because the ball was just sitting there and I was like ‘Oh boy.’ It felt good when I let it go, but then it rattled and I was like ‘Oh no.’ And then it went in and I was like, ‘Heck yes.'”
But the Wolves didn’t give in, with Dewey Panter driving hard and drawing a foul. He made both free throws and tied the game at 63-63 with 22 seconds to go. Moments later, Peterson hit the shot of his life.
“We absolutely wanted the ball in his hands,” Turley said. “He wants that shot. He is made for that shot. He thrives on those types of situations. And I knew it was in as soon as he let it go.”
The Thunder worked the final 20 seconds or so and Peterson took it on the right side. He escaped a double-team and elevated for a 15-footer. Peterson was just 5 for 14 shooting in the game before the final attempt.
“I got the ball and, honestly, everything was spinning,” Peterson said. “I couldn’t concentrate, but I know that’s my shot, that 15-foot, mid-range jump shot, and I’ve been confident in it all season. There’s no way I was giving that ball up. I grew up watching Kobe (Bryant) and I tried to form my jump shot off of Kobe and it paid off.”
Green Canyon immediately called timeout after the bucket, leaving them 2.3 seconds to try and get the equalizer. But Panter’s drive and shot came too late, and bounced out anyway, leaving the Thunder to celebrate the improbable come-from-behind win.
“When we were down, I think it was 59-51, with just a couple of minutes left, I admit, I was down,” Peterson said. “We’ve had a couple of games this year where we kind of crumbled at crunch time. But tonight we came together. Trevin was huge for us and Tyler Marz hit his free throws. It worked out perfectly for us there at the end.”
Peterson and the Thunder dominated the glass in the game, outrebounding the Wolves 44-20. Time and again, Peterson or Ryan Marz collected offensive rebounds and scored on second or third chances. Peterson ended up with 17 points and an astonishing 21 rebounds. Lindstrom had 17 points and five boards. Ryan Marz finished with 10 points and seven rebounds and Ty Webber had 11 points and six boards.
But Desert Hills needed that advantage to try and offset the hot shooting of Panter and Carter Berish. Berish finished with a game-high 21 points, making 4 of 10 3-point attempts. Panter had 10 points and Kasen Holbrook had 12 points. The Wolves made 9 of 26 3-pointers and only committed six turnovers in the game.
The game was close in the first half, but the third-seeded visitors seized control in the third quarter. An 11-2 run gave GCHS a 49-40 lead after a layup by Holbrook and then a 3-pointer by the junior guard. The Thunder got within three early in the fourth quarter at 53-50, but Green Canyon answered with a 6-1 run on a trey by Berish and three points by Holbrook to make it 59-51 with under four minutes to go. That set up the finally rally for Peterson and his team.
The Thunder, who outscored the Wolves 21-12 in the fourth quarter, picked up their 17th win on the year, moving to 17-6 overall. Desert Hills advances to the state quarterfinals and will play the winner of the Saturday’s Orem-Bonneville game next Thursday at Utah Valley University. The game is scheduled for 11:10 a.m. at the UCCU Center in Orem.
Green Canyon finishes the year with a 10-11 record.
This weekend’s 4A 1st Round playoff games (all games Saturday unless otherwise noted)
Region 10 No. 3 Payson (12-9) at Region 11 No. 2 Tooele (11-8), 7 p.m.
Region 9 No. 4 Canyon View (10-14) at Region 12 No. 1 Sky View (16-6), 5 p.m.
Region 12 No. 4 Bear River (16-6) at Region 9 No. 1 Dixie (20-3), 5 p.m.
Region 11 No. 3 Stansbury (11-11) at Region 10 No. 2 Salem Hills (16-7), 7 p.m.
Desert Hills 65, Green Canyon 63
Region 11 No. 4 Bonneville (8-13) at Region 10 No. 1 Orem (17-5), 7 p.m.
Region 10 No. 4 Lehi (10-12) at Region 11 No. 1 Juan Diego (19-4), 7 p.m.
Region 9 No. 3 Hurricane (13-9) at Region 12 No. 2 Logan (13-9), 6 p.m.
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