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High school basketball: Guards lead Wasatch boys to 3A victory

SHARE High school basketball: Guards lead Wasatch boys to 3A victory
Wasatch's Michael Brown and Hurricane's Zach Sorenson scramble for a loose ball during Friday's contest.

Wasatch’s Michael Brown and Hurricane’s Zach Sorenson scramble for a loose ball during Friday’s contest.

Keith Johnson, Keith Johnson

OREM — Top-ranked Wasatch overcame a resilient Hurricane squad with clutch free throws in a 61-54 semifinal victory at the 3A state tournament on Friday at Utah Valley University.

With stellar guard play up front, the composed and patient Wasps only turned the ball over twice in the win.

"Our goal is to never have more than 10 turnovers a game, because turnovers are offense at the other end," Wasatch head coach Norm Hayter said. "These kids play with a lot of composure, and they don't get rattled easy. When you get rattled, bad things usually happen."

Trevor Bamgartner, 3A's second-leading scorer, put in eight first-quarter points to spur the Wasatch attack, but Hurricane held Wasatch's Mike Brown, 3A's third-leading scorer, to zero points until Brown finally scored off an alley-oop with 1:15 remaining before the break.

Hurricane's Anderson Rich hit a trio of three-pointers in the first half to stifle Wasatch's momentum at key moments when the Wasps appeared to be pulling away, but Wasatch's tenacious half-court zone press kept the Wasps in the lead headed into the break. Brown's excellent defense on the press resulted in three steals at the half, and he tallied six total on the night.

The Tigers came out of the break composed and easily broke Wasatch's press, rattling off five straight points to take their first lead of the game (off another three by Rich) at the six-minute mark in the third. The teams traded leads throughout the quarter, before Wasatch took a two-point lead headed into the fourth. Hurricane also pounded the boards, outrebounding Wasatch 12-5 in the second half.

The Wasps didn't get their first offensive rebound of the second half until the 5:19 mark in the fourth quarter, when Jake Hobbs pulled down two straight — the only two offensive rebounds Wasatch would get in the final two quarters.

Zach Sorenson and Rich combined to put in 12 points in the fourth quarter to keep Hurricane in the hunt, but the Wasps finally got a comfortable lead after Rich fouled out and picked up a technical walking off the court.

Wasatch converted all four foul shots to go ahead by seven with 41 seconds remaining. As a team, the Wasps were ice at the line in the fourth, going 20-of-22 to clinch it.

"Out strategy in the fourth was basically to get the ball inbounds and get fouled," Wasatch junior McKay Murdock said. "We have confidence in our free throws."

Murdock, Wasatch's unsung hero, was clutch personified for the Wasps, going 11-for-11 at the line, hitting a huge three and converting a three-point play to kill Hurricane's third-quarter momentum.

"Me and my dad go to the church every night and shoot hundreds of free throws," Murdock said. "I just pictured myself there, and I hit them."

Murdock led the Wasps with 19 points, while Rich put in a game-high 21 for Hurricane.

The win sends Wasatch to the 3A championship game against Judge Memorial at 4 p.m. today at UVU.

"It's a dream we've had since we were little," Murdock said. "It's an amazing accomplishment to get there, but we don't want to just get there, we want to win it."

e-mail: hbruce@desnews.com