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High school boys basketball: Hunter overcomes late 12-point deficit to outlast Weber

OGDEN — With his team facing a 12-point deficit — their largest of the game — and with just 6:37 remaining, Hunter head coach Robb Collins called a quick timeout in one final attempt to regroup and inspire the worn-down Wolverines.

“We just basically kept telling them to keep believing,” Collins said. “Even though I had a little doubt myself and was getting nervous, you’ve got to credit our guys because they kept fighting.”

And boy, did they battle for their lives.

The No. 1 seed out of Region 2 responded with a dominant 22-3 run in the final six minutes of the game and outscored Weber 22-9 in the fourth quarter to avoid a first-round upset and escape with a 53-46 victory.

“We just wanted to keep their confidence up and really emphasize getting stops,” Collins added. “I don’t know if it was luck, if our defense turned up or what, but whatever it was it was a pretty good defensive effort.”

It was far from a smooth ride for Hunter, especially in the first half, as fourth-seeded Weber gave the Wolverines everything it had to take an early lead.

The Warriors were neck-and-neck with Hunter after the first quarter and went on to win the second period, 15-10, to take a 23-19 lead and the momentum at the break.

“Honestly, I felt like a lot of it was me,” Collins said of his team’s halftime deficit. “I just felt like the more pressure we put on them, we may end up in foul trouble or we may end up on the wrong end if they maintain their lead in the second half.”

Then, after the Warriors came out and netted the first six points of the half to take a nine-point edge, Collins knew he had no other choice than to increase their defensive pressure and hopefully slow down the high-octane Weber offense.

“We just decided to apply pressure and go into our full-court press, and it worked a little bit,” said Collins. “They (Weber) struggled with that and as we slowly battled back, I think they just panicked a tiny bit there at the end.”

Hunter slowly began battling back and cut its deficit to six heading into the final eight minutes before the Warriors opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 spurt to open up its largest lead of the night.

However, it was all Hunter the rest of the way as its length and suffocating defense forced the visitors into several key turnovers and Noah Togiai turned on the jets to spark the Wolverines’ impressive 22-3 run and comeback victory.

“We just never put our heads down,” Togiai said of their finish. “We just kept playing, our coach kept telling us to keep fighting and we just listen to our coach. He always talks about never giving up, and the results show.”

Togiai dominated the final period and filled the stat sheet with 22 points, seven boards and five dimes while McKay Meidlinger added 14 points to power the home team. Grant Ellison led Weber with 20 points in the loss.

With the win, Hunter moves on to the 5A quarterfinals, where it will take on No. 3 Brighton Wednesday night at 5:50 p.m. and look to change people’s perception of Region 2.

“That was our main emphasis coming into this state tournament,” said Togiai. ”Every team from Region 2 is supporting each other because no one really shows us any respect. We just wanted to come out and represent our whole region — not just our school — but our whole region.”

Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since October 2012.

Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724