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Prep boys basketball: T-Birds' hot shooting, second-quarter surge too much for Bobcats

OGDEN — The Thunderbirds were wary of suffering another first-round failure in the state tournament.

But with the way they shot the ball in Tuesday's 4A tourney opener, there's no way Timpview was gonna lose this time.

The T-Birds shot 72.1 percent from the field, including a blistering 75 percent (12-of-16) from 3-point range, and blew out Sky View with a 29-7 second-quarter scoring blitz on their way to an eventual 83-53 victory over the Bobcats at Weber State's Dee Events Center.

Gabe Reid's 14 points paced a brilliantly balanced scoring attack for Timpview (15-8), which also got 12 points apiece from Gavin Baxter, Britain Covey and AJ Bollinger and 10 more from Levi Wilson to move into Thursday's 4A quarterfinals against Orem.

"We just came into the game ready to play," said Reid, a senior forward. "We wanted to bring energy, and that's what we did. … It was close for a little bit, but then we just picked up our defense.

"It means a lot to us seniors. We've been gunning to get past that first round the past couple of years; we've lost in the first round, and to get past that first round is huge for us. But we want to keep going, that's what we're looking to do — but one game at a time, though."

Bryce Mortenson scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds for Sky View (13-10). Tyler Downs was also in double figures with 10 points, but the Bobcats ran into a hot-shooting buzzsaw that couldn't be beaten on this night.

Sky View got off to a strong start, though, as Mortenson and Cardon Porter paced the Bobcats to a 14-12 lead after the first quarter.

But in the second period, the T-Birds started clicking on all cylinders as Wilson hit a layup and a couple of 3-pointers, Covey canned a pair of threes of his own, and Reid scored seven points in an impressive 29-7 run that propelled Timpview to a 20-point halftime lead, 41-21.

"Coach told us to go inside-out," Reid said, "but we hit some shots (from 3-point range in that second quarter), so it kinda went a little backwards today. But it worked, so it was good."

In all, the T-Birds made six 3-pointers in the second period and were 8-of-9 from beyond the arc in the first half.

"A lot of credit in this game goes to Levi Wilson," Timpview coach Kevin Santiago said. "… He came in and he's a spark plug. He got those two threes and knocked ’em down, and it was kinda like 'OK, that basket's this big around (spreading his hands three feet apart), and everybody just started pouring it in. Some days you get that.

"But I had to remind the guys at halftime, 'Live by the three, die by the three,' because if those aren't going in, it's a lot different game. You've gotta just lace it up and play 'D.'

"At halftime, we talked about 'Live by the three, die by the three,' right? … The reason those threes were open (in the second quarter) was because they were jamming down and taking away our post play. We were counting to three or four before we got to shoot it," he said.

"So when they came out on us (in the third quarter), I said 'Let's don't keep firing; let's don't shoot ourselves out of the game, let's take what they give us.' And I thought our guys did a really good job of just being patient, not forcing the ball and getting the ball inside, and I'm just really proud of how hard they kept competing."

Indeed, in the third quarter, the Thunderbirds started pounding the ball inside as Baxter threw down a couple of dunks, Bollinger scored four buckets down deep and, just for good measure, Baxter bombed in a pair of 3-pointers late in the period as Timpview extended its lead to 65-37 entering the fourth quarter.

From then on, it was just a matter of how big Timpview's final margin of victory would be. The lead grew to as many as 32 points, 83-51, thanks to late 3-pointers by sophomore Jordan Sagers and freshman Hunter Erickson, before a last-second steal and layup by Sky View's Alex McCrae brought the Bobcats within 30 at the final buzzer.

Coach Santiago said his team came out a little nervous, remembering its first-round losses to Sky View and Highland over the previous two years, and it took the T-Birds awhile to settle down and get things going.

"We played a little tight in that first quarter," he said. "We came out last year and laid an egg against Highland, and that's been weighing on these guys and you could see it a little bit in that first quarter — just a little tense — and then all of a sudden we relaxed and then we just started playing ball.

"Our defensive effort was just intense that second quarter, and that made all the difference.

"Once we started to play our game, we've got guys that can get up and down the court, and that's our magic," Santiago said. "When we get Gabe and (Sampson) Nacua with the ball in their hands coming up the floor, and you've got guys as fast as Britain and as long and as quick as Gavin can cover the distance of the floor, it's really hard and it stretches a defense."

Tuesday's victory comes as a sigh of relief for the Thunderbirds, who lost some close games in league play, were concerned about their postseason prospects at one point this season and were thus mighty glad to get this one out of the way.

"We've had our backs to the wall," Santiago said. "We lost four games in our region by a total of eight points. … And we all had to look in the mirror and say, 'We might not even make the tournament.'

"So we've been really fortunate to have to play with our backs to the wall, and every game has been our state tournament. So that's been our motto for four or five weeks now — it's one game at a time and we have to win this game. So we've just been playing with that kind of intensity.

"Our chant in there (the locker room) was 'one more,' and every game is one more for us," said Santiago, whose team will face Orem — a team that beat the T-Birds earlier in the season — in Thursday's quarterfinals.