The Orem Tigers advanced to the 4A boys’ basketball semifinals Wednesday with a 48-37 win, thanks in large part to the steady play of their star, Dalton Nixon, as he scored 18 points, pulled in 12 rebounds and delivered two crucial blocks.
Nixon’s size and physicality proved to difficult for the undersized-but-athletic Kearns Cougars to overcome, although it did not come easy for the Tigers at the start.
“They knocked down some shots early and they’re really athletic and they can get to the rim, but I think our zone did really well particularly in the second half,” said Nixon. “(We were) making some adjustments and coming down the stretch, just getting the loose balls and getting all the rebounds, that’s kind of what sealed the deal for us.”
The Cougars, led by Bushman Ebet (16 points), got out to a fast start, leading for most of the first half before 2-and-1’s by Nixon put the Tigers up by six points.
Nixon “seemed to be in the middle of everything defensively, got his hands on a few loose balls, and was moving his feet defensively,” said Orem coach Golden Holt.
After Nixon took over, Kearns was never really the same, scoring six points in the second quarter and eight in the third.
“We pride ourselves on being a really good ‘man’ defensive team and yet, in preparation for Kearns and their personnel, we went a little 1-2-2 match-up zone the entire game and I thought that was the difference in the game,” said Holt.
Kearns narrowed the their deficit to four in the fourth quarter, but a Cooper Holt 3-pointer and a bucket by Nixon stretched the lead to nine.
In the end, however, the Tigers’ size and physicality was just too much for the Cougars to overcome.
“I think we took advantage of it and got the ball to me in spots where I could be effective and get my teammates the ball,” said Nixon. “Ultimately just taking it to the rack and trying to get them in foul trouble that (was) our goal.”
• Quin Peters scores 14 points for Orem, including 10 from the free-throw line.
• Orem goes out of its comfort zone and plays zone to combat Kearns’ athleticism.
• The Tigers move on to face Springville in the 4A semifinals Friday at 2:30 p.m.