Ogden • In a nip-and-tuck game destined to go down to the wire, American Fork seemed to have one major advantage over Syracuse down the stretch: its big guy.
Sure enough, 6-foot-9 junior Ryan Andrus played a large role late as the Cavemen turned a three-point deficit into a 41-37 victory in a Class 5A quarterfinal Wednesday.
Andrus, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, got a pass from Tyler Rawson and made the bucket to trim the Syracuse (14-9) advantage to a point with three minutes remaining.
Showing his touch at the free-throw line, Andrus made one shot with 2 minutes, 22 seconds remaining to tie the game at 37-37.
An inbounds play for American Fork went just as planned as Rawson found Andrus with a baseline pass for a dunk and a two-point lead about 30 seconds later.
"He’s got good hands," Cavemen coach Doug Meacham said. "He can catch tough passes. That was a great pass by Tyler in the corner there and a great catch-and-finish."
Andrus added: "In a state tournament, you’ve just got to take what they give you and roll with it. We know we can come back and return what they give us."
American Fork (17-8), which also got eight points and eight boards from Rawson, sealed the game when senior guard Dan Nyman smoothly swished a pair of free throws with 19 seconds remaining.
"Dan Nyman is one of those players who sneaks into the gym when it’s locked and his dad feeds him rebounds," Meacham said. "He’s our guy wanting to hit those free throws in the end."
Syracuse was led by Diante Mitchell’s 10 points, while Daulton Whatcott finished with eight. Whatcott’s trey with 5:07 left gave the Titans a one-point lead that turned into three when Mitchell hit one of two free throws at the 4:43 and 3:31 marks.
The two teams played in the regular season, and the game was similarly close. That contest was a 70-59 victory for American Fork, achieved only after going into two overtime periods.
The Titans, who finished fourth in Region 1, sprung an upset over Region 2 champ Hunter in the opening round of the state tournament.
"I wanted them to know how much I loved them and how proud I was of them," Syracuse coach Justin Nelson said he told his squad. "I wanted to make sure they knew how grateful we are to be part of their lives."
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.