Orem • Juan Diego’s Chinonso Opara leaped to grab a rebound and promptly jammed the basketball with authority against Hurricane.
It was the game’s first points and signaled that the Soaring Eagle came to play. Jackson Last and the Tigers, however, had something to say about that.
Hurricane battled back from 12 points down to close the gap to two with time dwindling in the fourth quarter. But Juan Diego, led by Jason Ricketts and point guard Matt Kitzman, escaped with a 59-54 victory in Thursday’s Class 4A boys’ basketball state quarterfinal.
Ricketts began to assert himself in the latter stages of the first half and continued his dominating presence into the second. As Hurricane inched closer, Ricketts was busy clogging the paint, blocking several shots, stealing the ball and finishing strong at the other end. He finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
“They have some tough players, and we knew they wouldn’t go without a fight,” Ricketts said. “But we had a great game plan and we executed it. We’re taking it one game at a time but will see how far we can take it.”
Hurricane refused to bow down without a fight. Last and Reagan Marshall hit back-to-back 3s as the fourth quarter got underway, breathing life into an otherwise dormant offense and bringing the Tigers faithful to their feet.
Kitzman started to heat up from outside in the second half, holding the surging Tigers at bay, raining buckets and distributing the ball to several teammates. Raimoana Tinirauarii was the beneficiary of several such passes, nailing a pair of 3-pointers.
The Eagles employed a 2-3 zone in the initial stages of the contest, forcing the Tigers to shoot from outside. It proved troublesome until Matthew Meyers and Bryce Thomas nailed consecutive 3s as Hurricane fought back to take a second-quarter lead in a closely contested contest.
JUAN DIEGO 59, HURRICANE 54
• The Soaring Eagle outrebound the Tigers 37-24, led by Jason Ricketts’ 11 boards.
• Hurricane only commits six turnovers in the game.
• Juan Diego advances to the state semifinals for the third consecutive year. The Soaring Eagle lost in the state title game the past two seasons.