Prep boys' basketball: Hunter fights off Kearns
Kearns • Opponents that play the Kearns boys' basketball team have two options play at the Cougars' frenetic pace or set the tempo.
Hunter slowed down things just enough to overcome Kearns 58-49 in an important Region 2 showdown Friday.
The Wolverines erased an 11-point deficit moments into the third quarter and built a double-digit lead midway through the fourth to remain undefeated in region play (6-0).
"We couldn't go to their level," Hunter's Noah Togiai said. "We had to stick to how we play. We played them before, so we knew what their strengths and weaknesses were. We knew what we had to do to win. It's a great feeling right now."
Perhaps more important than being undefeated, Hunter opened a two-game lead in the region standings over Kearns and Viewmont with four games left. The loss was the Cougars' first at home this season.
Despite trailing for nearly the entire first half, Hunter's intensity never waned. The Wolverines continually crashed the boards for second-chance opportunities. Hunter outrebounded Kearns 41-28, including several on the offensive end that led to three-point plays.
"Our goal is to get all the loose balls and as many offensive rebounds as you can get," Hunter coach Dave Filimoehala said.
"The guys took it to heart. We needed to get it down to our tempo so we could execute. We got away from that early. We told them this game had to be won on the defensive end."
Togiai was among those hustling throughout the game. The sophomore led all scorers with 24 points, including 16 in the second half. He also converted 13 of his 19 free-throw attempts. Kearns committed 24 fouls.
"Second-chance points win the game," Togiai said. "We're very pleased with the win."
It seemed early on that the Cougars (4-2 in region) would be the first region team to defeat Hunter. Kearns led 29-20 at halftime, and Darion Brown's basket to open the second half extended the margin to double digits. But the Cougars became a little too aggressive, and Hunter made 17 of its 22 free throws in the second half.
The Wolverines used a 25-4 run to build a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Cougars rallied to cut the deficit to five points twice.
"If we lost tonight, that puts three teams in [the region race]," Filimoehala said. "We needed to get a little separation because you don't know what's going to happen. You keep working hard and good things will happen."
Brandon Davies added 11 points and Willie Peterson and Lorenzo Dudley both scored nine points for Hunter. Togiai had 11 rebounds and Peterson 10.
Dayon Goodman had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead Kearns. Brown added 11 points.