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Cyprus saves Region 5 pride

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WEST VALLEY CITY — When Cyprus coach Clyde Ahlquist arrived at the E Center Tuesday night prior to his team's first-round game, he was quickly informed about how his Region 5 cohorts fared, and the news wasn't good. Murray, Woods Cross and Olympus all lost their opening round games.

"I was discouraged to walk in and see the other three before us get beat," said Ahlquist.

As it turns out, it was an omen.

Cyprus was the only Region 5 team to win a first-round game last year, so it wasn't surprising when Cyprus beat Box Elder 52-41 to win back a little pride for Region 5 along with advancing to Thursday's quarterfinals.

Unlike last year though, the Pirates actually have a decent shot at the semifinals. A year ago they ran into eventual state champion Timpview in the second round, but this year they'll face the winner of Payson.

With a similar defensive effort like it turned in Tuesday, Cyprus could probably compete with most teams in the tournament.

The Pirates held the Bees just 37 percent shooting, forced them into 23 turnovers and got a bit lucky when Box Elder missed all 12 of its 3-point attempts.

"I thought the key to the whole game was our defensive pressure on their guards," said Ahlquist. "I thought our guards were better than their guards, and I thought they showed that."

Cyprus wasn't benefitting from that stellar defense though. The Pirates couldn't shoot either. The Pirates made just 7-of-24 field goals in the opening half, which amazingly was enough to help them build a 17-15 lead at the break.

The Bees' shooting woes quickly subsided in the second half. They scored on five straight possessions in racing to an early 24-17 second-half lead. The Pirates called on the 3-pointer to bail them out.

Robert Reynolds and Robbie Garside hit back-to-back 3's to cut the deficit to 24-23, but the momentum was short-lived. The Bees forced Cyprus into four straight turnovers which helped them regain the comfortable cushion at 30-23.

Cyprus sophomore Aaron England made sure Box Elder didn't get too comfortable. His 3-pointer late in the third quarter cut the Bees' lead to 30-23, and then his second trey early in the fourth quarter put Cyprus in front 34-33.

That one-point lead would trade alliances during the next several minutes before the turning point in the game occurred at 1:23. Tyson Astin made the first of two free throws to put Cyprus ahead 43-41, but after missing the second, Cyprus grabbed the rebound and Astin scored on a layup to increase that lead to 45-41.

E-mail: jedward@desnews.com