Ogden • Christian Wells stepped to the free-throw line.
If the score held, there would be only 5 minutes, 12 seconds left in the American Fork guard’s high school basketball career. From the earliest moments of the game, the Jordan Beetdiggers led the Cavemen in their first-round matchup in the Class 5A tournament Monday.
Wells sunk one shot to tie it and another to give his team its first lead.
The Cavemen would go on to make 15 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter to beat Jordan 51-47 at the Dee Events Center.
“I told [the players] just keep your heads up, keep battling,” American Fork coach Doug Meacham said. “It’s going to come down to the wire. Just battle through it.”
The Beetdiggers looked undersized against the Cavemen — including 6-foot-10 center Ryan Andrus and 6-7 forward Tyler Rawson — but Jordan struck first Monday. Senior guard Marcus Gutierrez knocked down a 3 and later slashed to the hoop, scoring eight points in the first quarter.
“A lot of these guys hadn’t played here before, and I think some jitters may have had something to do with turning the ball over 19 times,” Meacham said.
The Cavemen responded by outscoring Jordan 12-6 in the second quarter, thanks to a pair of treys from senior guard Dan Nyman. Jordan took a 25-20 lead into the locker room.
American Fork continued its comeback in the second half. But Jordan always seemed to answer. When the Cavemen finally pulled within three, Beetdigger McKay Nilsson sunk a corner trey and was fouled. He converted the free throw.
American Fork eventually asserted itself inside, pounding the ball into Andrus and getting Jordan’s leading scorer this season, forward Brandon Pasker, in foul trouble. Pasker finished with just seven points, well off his average of 18 points per game.
The Cavemen also held Jordan to just 3 of 13 shooting on 3-pointers.
With Jordan trailing 49-44 late in the game, Beetdigger point guard Chandler Smith made a layup and was fouled. Moments later, after an American Fork turnover, Smith banked in a 3 from the right angle to close the gap to two.
But once again, American Fork made its free throws as Andrus stepped to the line and coolly hit two of his 11 freebies in the period to ice it.