OGDEN — Few teams are as unpredictable as Northridge.
There were games this season when the undersize Knights shot the lights out and won by 20, and then there were other games when they shot less than 30 percent and were crushed.
Through it all, Northridge coach CK Hansen could always count on his players working hard until the final whistle, and that's what happened in Tuesday's 71-63 victory over Hillcrest in the 5A state tournament.
Hansen's resilient bunch trailed by as many as 12 in the first half and then 10 in the second half, but they just kept battling and now they're gearing up for a quarterfinal game with Spanish Fork on Thursday at the Dee Events Center.
"We just have to go out and do what we do. We're so undersized and we just have to play the type of ball that we can have success in," said Hansen. "They know to just keep working hard and we did that all the way to the end."
Northridge didn't take its first lead until the 3:54 mark of the fourth quarter when Brandon Adams, who led the team with 21 points, put the Knights ahead 55-54 with a pair of free throws.
Hillcrest came back and tied it on several occasions at 55, 57 and then 59, but Northridge went ahead for good at 61-59 with 1:27 remaining when a couple of offensive rebounds enabled it to tally a couple of second-chance points at the foul line.
One of those fouls sent Hillcrest leading scorer Ryan Brimley to the bench with his fifth foul, and the Huskies could have used his hot hand as they missed four of their last five shots. During that same stretch, Northridge made 8-of-8 foul shots in the final minute, but in reality the Knights were great from the line all afternoon, connecting on 25 of 31.
"We shoot about 50 free throws a day," said Adams, who made six of those eight in the final minute. "Free throws and layups are what win games."
Northridge wasn't the least bit concerned with Hillcrest's glossy record coming into the game. For starters, the Knights narrowly lost to Hillcrest in the preseason, and secondly, just minutes before Northridge took the court it watched as Region 1 champion Davis fell to heavy underdog Jordan.
"We knew coming in anything could happen — it's the state tournament," said Adams. "It doesn't matter what seed you are, it comes down to who's hot that night."
Hillcrest was the hot team early Tuesday. Behind three first quarter 3-pointers by Brimley, Hillcrest opened up a 25-15 lead at the end of the first quarter despite four 3-pointers from Northridge.
"We always start slow, but we have a whole lot of heart on this team and it's going to take a lot to put us down," said Adams.
Northridge chipped away at Hillcrest's lead and cut it to 30-29 before Hillcrest scored on its final two possessions of the half to go up 35-29.
The Huskies pushed their lead back up to 10 early in the second, and it seemed they were on the verge of blowing the game wide open. Instead, Northridge kept the deficit at single digits and made its run in the fourth quarter.
In addition to Adams' 21 points, Colby Bentley recorded 17 for Northridge while Tyker Belnap chipped in with 14 on four 3-pointers.
Hillcrest had four players in double figures, led by Brimley's 18 and Kyle Maughan's 17.
Considering that both teams shot 46 percent, Hansen said one of the subtle differences was his team only committing eight turnovers compared to Hillcrest's 17.