West Valley City • It’s not easy to live up to enormous expectations, especially for an Orem team that had won exactly seven games the year before.
But the Tigers have proven to be a special group this year, a balanced team with shooting, depth and the confidence of being the only Class 4A squad in the state to knock off mighty Lone Peak.
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It should come as no surprise that Orem was able to finish the job and claim its first-ever boys’ basketball state title in the 56-year history of the school. And by the middle of Saturday’s 58-50 win over Olympus at the Maverik Center, victory seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
“We told ourselves that we would have a good chance of winning if we came out and played our game,” junior guard Zach Hunsaker said. “We played like a team today and all season. This was our goal, and it feels so good to be a part of this.”
Orem, down 12-9 early in the second quarter, scored 14 consecutive points to take a 23-12 advantage. The Titans, feisty and intense, made a few runs at the Tigers. But the combination of Hunsaker, Jordan Darger and Dalton Nixon was too much for Olympus to overcome.
Hunsaker, the transfer from Woods Cross and the son of UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker, scored 10 points and controlled the offense from the point guard spot. Nixon shot his way to a game-high 18 points while grabbing five rebounds and causing matchup issues for the Titans all game.
Darger scored 14 points, disrupted defensively with his length and grabbed another four rebounds.
“This team has played together and for each other all year,” Nixon said. “We had confidence coming in, and that run was huge for us in the second quarter. Olympus is a very good team, and we knew they were going to keep coming at us. So for us to make a run then was huge.”
The Titans came to within six points, 30-24, at halftime, because Hunsaker made a huge 3-pointer with time winding down to stretch the lead.
Will Cannon scored 13 points to lead Olympus, which made sort of a Cinderella run through the tournament. Jackson Coleman chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds. But on an afternoon when the Titans needed more scoring, nobody else reached double figures.
In contrast, Cooper Holt came off the bench for Orem and scored 11 points in 20 minutes to help the Tigers’ big three. Josh Pollard also came up big, scoring three points and grabbing nine rebounds to go along with three assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
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Orem 58, Olympus 50
• Dalton Nixon leads Orem with 18 points.
• Zach Hunsaker makes key free throws down the stretch.
• Orem wins its first state title in school history.