The Orem Tigers vividly remember walking off the floor at the Dee Events Center as the No. 1 seed in last year’s Class 4A state tournament shocked by an stunning upset loss to Logan.
Monday morning was not a repeat of last year. That much the Tigers ensured.
The No. 1 seed out of Region 7 utilized its strengths in the paint to dominate first-round opponent Box Elder in the opening round of the 4A tournament at the Huntsman Center in Orem’s 75-56 win.
“Last year’s Logan loss in the first round really hurt us,” said senior forward Dalton Nixon, who finished with a game-high 26 points, “but it’s nice to come back and get that first one out of the way.”
The Tigers did, thanks in large part to a 26-5 run between the third and fourth quarters, fueled by Nixon, guard Quin Peters (17 points) and forward Cooper Holt (11 points). Peters scored 11 points in the third quarter, disrupting passing lanes and finishing with uncontested layups at the rim.
“Quin’s been doing that all year,” Orem coach Golden Holt said. “I don’t think Quin gets the respect he deserves. I don’t know of a better ball-handler attacking the rim in this state than Quin.”
Peters and Holt responded to Box Elder star Shad Watson who kept the Bees in the game early on with his deep 3-point shooting. While Watson finished with 18 points, Peters and Holt stuck to his hip in the second half and helped translate defense into offense. After Watson drained a 3-pointer to give Box Elder a 37-36 lead midway through the third, Orem responded with a combination of Nixon’s inside-out game and Peters and Holt attacking the basket.
“Knowing Shad and the way he likes to play, he’s a momentum player,” coach Holt said. “In a way, I’m happy when he’s taking all the shots because the other guys aren’t. And I don’t think one guy can beat you.”
Orem made certain of that.
Nixon’s monster outing provided constant lifts to the Tigers. He went 8 of 13 from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. Center Richard Harward had 12 points and nine rebounds. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound big man has come on late as of late, coach Holt said. Harward weighed in at 270 pounds in mid-January and has trimmed down to be an impact big next to Nixon.
“Just keep taking care of business,” Nixon said, “but really proud of the way we played today.”
The Tigers move on to face Kearns in the 4A quarterfinal Wednesday at the Huntsman Center at 7:30 p.m.
Orem 75, Box Elder 56
• Orem goes on a 26-5 run between the third and fourth quarter to move past the Bees.
• BYU commit Dalton Nixon scores a game-high 26 points, including going 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
• Orem had four players in double figures — Nixon (26 points), Quin Peters (17 points), Richard Harward (12 points), Cooper Holt (11 points)