Orem star forward Dalton Nixon wore sweatpants and a long-sleeve shirt and emerged from the Tigers’ victorious locker room. The postgame handshakes and celebrations were over and the joyous yells were no longer audible, and Nixon paused and reflected on how the Tigers had gotten there.
The Tigers had entered the Class 4A tournament as favorites a year ago, but Logan stunned them with a first-round upset. An unexpectedly early offseason was upon them, and they began searching for the missing ingredient: Toughness.
StorylinesOrem advances to the Class 4A title game, erasing the memories of last year’s first-round upset.
» Dalton Nixon finishes with just seven points, but Quinn Peters, Cooper Holt and Richard Harward finish in double digits for the Tigers.
» The Tigers’ defense clamps down, holding Springville to 32.1 percent shooting from the field.
The Tigers proved on Friday that a grueling preseason schedule had given them what they needed this season. They seized the opportunity to move past last year’s disappointment, beating Springville 61-46 at the Huntsman Center to earn a trip to the Class 4A state title game.
"I think [toughness is] something we’ve been able to find in this team late in the season," Nixon said. "That’s gotten us far, especially in the second half of region and taking us into the state tournament."
Though it didn’t turn the game into a blowout early, Orem controlled it from the beginning. They exhibited the toughness they’d gained while struggling through what coach Golden Holt believes was the most difficult schedule in school history.
"We took our lumps," Holt said of the Tigers’ six preseason losses. "… We played a very good schedule. And if you look at my notes, you know I planned on being here tomorrow. That schedule paid off."
Though the Red Devils kept within striking range in the first half, the Tigers’ depth, both in the post and on the guard line, broke open the game in the second half.
Nixon, the Tigers’ leading scorer and a BYU commit, didn’t play his best game. But the battle-tested supporting cast made up for the missing production. Quinn Peters led the Tigers with 20 points. Cooper Holt and Richard Harward also finished in double digits.
"I’m glad those guys came to play today," Nixon said.
And now the Tigers have just one more obstacle in their at-times arduous season. The title game tips off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Huntsman Center.
"My ultimate goal is to play for a state championship," Nixon said. "I get that opportunity to do it tomorrow."
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.