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High school basketball: Emery overcomes loss of star center to advance in 3A

OREM — Their star post player had just fouled out in the most dubious of circumstances, and up until that point at the end of the third quarter of the quarterfinal round of the 3A state tournament, the Emery Spartans had struggled to put anything together.

However, despite losing center Colton Barnett to a clerical error and despite the fact they just hadn't played very well, the Spartans didn't fold in the fourth quarter against Region 9's Cedar.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

Stringing everything together at precisely the right moment, Emery found ways to survive and advance. Star guard Nevin Jensen scored six of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, and he got plenty of help as Emery came from behind to beat Cedar 40-33 at the 3A tourney on Thursday at the UVU Events Center.

"It wasn't too pretty, but it was a win," said Emery coach Todd Jeffs. "In the state tournament, I think you're gonna have a game where you're not at your best, and we were probably at our worst and still found a way to end up winning it.

"You gotta give credit to Cedar. I thought they played well."

On the heels of three quarters of tense and tight basketball, Thursday's quarterfinal game roared to life with 2.4 seconds to go in the third quarter.

A seemingly innocuous foul by Barnett at that juncture sent Cedar forward Taylor Ottenbacher to the line for two shots, but the scorekeeper ruled that the foul was Barnett's fifth.

The scorekeepers for Emery and Cedar both had Barnett with four fouls and Emery's other two systems for tracking fouls also had Barnett with four. In fact, except for the official scorekeeper, it seemed as though no one inside the UVU Events Center believed Barnett had fouled out.

Yet the scorekeeper was the only person whose opinion ultimately mattered, and so Barnett permanently went to the bench with his team trailing, 31-28, after Ottenbacher sank both free throws.

"Colton's huge for us, and to lose him to a clerical mistake is miserable," said Jeffs.

But the Spartans refused to let that incident affect them in a negative manor.

Indeed, after struggling for most of the afternoon, Emery finally sprung to life in the fourth quarter and got contributions across the board to overcome the loss of Barnett, who finished with a game-high 14 points and had been a huge presence on defense.

After tying the game via a Jensen basket and a TJ Furner free throw, Cedar pulled ahead by two with 6:19 to go, but it was all Emery the rest of the way.

Emery closed the game on a 9-0 run and got big plays from several guys to advance to the 3A semifinals.

Among the fourth-quarter standouts was forward Tanner Procarione, who scored a huge basket early in the 9-0 run and played outstanding defense in Barnett's absence.

"I felt like I needed to board harder and get a rebound and try just to be big in the middle, try to help us out," said Procarione of his role after Barnett "fouled" out. "They needed me in the post, so I needed to step up more and so did our other post player (Furner.)"

Brandon Garrett led Cedar on offense with 12 points.