OGDEN — Often when No. 1 seeds find themselves trailing in the fourth quarter in what would be a major upset, panic starts to set in, and momentum shifts to the underdog.
For heavily favored Fremont, there was no panic at Weber State on Tuesday night when Hillcrest took a two-point lead midway through the fourth quarter in the opening round of the 6A state tournament. Nearly every one of Fremont’s games in Region 1 came down to the final few possessions, so as far as the players were concerned it was just another game.
As Fremont coach Corey Melaney said, “they feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations.”
That poise was obvious down the stretch as Fremont used a 13-0 run during a key four-minute stretch to pull away for a 62-52 victory over a gritty Hillcrest team that came into the tourney with a 1-6 record in its past seven games.
“We’ve been in tight games all year long, and this group’s won quite a few of them,” said Melaney.
Eight of Fremont’s 12 region games were decided by six points or less, and four of those were decided by two points or less.
Fremont went 5-3 in those tight games, but won its last four close games to clinch the Region 1 championship.
The first-round win was an extension of that composure.
In a tight game throughout that featured seven ties and five lead changes, Fremont found itself trailing 49-47 with 4:50 remaining after Bassel Tekarli hit a tough jumper for the Huskies.
Over the next four minutes, it executed, perfecting at both ends of the court. Tige Voorhees hit a corner 3-pointer to put Fremont ahead 50-49, and then Cade Hadley stretched the lead to 52-49 with a steal and then a layup.
By the time Hillcrest finally scored again with 52 seconds left in the game on a 3-pointer from Devin Adams, Fremont had built a 60-49 lead as it marched into Thursday’s 6A quarterfinals at the University of Utah.
“I thought (Hillcrest) played outstanding. I didn’t think we played necessarily terrible, it wasn’t our best, but it was enough,” said Melaney.
Fremont shot 66 percent from the field in the second half, with sophomore Dallin Hall leading the way with 16 points — 13 of which came in the second half.
“He’s hard to hold down, he’s so seasoned, he’s so smooth, he’s just terrific and we need him to have a good game,” Melaney said.
Cade Hadley added 12 points for Fremont on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, with Kyler Bush adding 10 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the free-throw line.
In the first half, Hillcrest shot 50 percent from the field and made five 3-pointers to take a 29-28 lead into the locker room at the half. Fremont’s defense did a much better job of forcing Hillcrest into difficult shots in the second half.
“We wanted to make their shooters put it on the floor. If they beat us off the dribble then so be it, but they weren’t going to beat us from the 3-point line,” said Melaney.
Hillcrest made one 3-pointer in the second half, as Brox Ashby led the Huskies in scoring with 12 points.