Close region games have been the norm for Stansbury this season, and so too has been winning those close games.
Stansbury kept its perfect Region 7 record intact on Tuesday as it played great defense down the stretch to pull away from visiting Payson for the 68-61 victory. In the process it handed Payson its first region loss at the midway point of league play.
Of Stansbury’s six region wins so far, five have been by single digits with three of those decided in either overtime or by one possession.
“These boys they don’t give up, they just find another gear. They trust in each other,” said Stansbury coach Joseph White.
Payson led by one entering the fourth quarter and pushed it to 55-53 on a Zachary Robbins 3-pointer with 6:10 remaining in the game. Stansbury’s response came at the defensive end as it held Payson to just six points the rest of the way to close the game on a 15-6 run.
“They’ve bought into being a team. We just didn’t back off at all and we knew what we needed to do,” said White.
Logan Richins led the way for Stansbury with 20 points, while Landen Giles chipped in with 19 points.
With Stansbury leading by five with under two minutes remaining, Payson had three different possessions to try and make it a one possession game, but went 0 for 4 from the field and 0 for 1 from the free-throw line.
Bridger Thomas finally put the game out of reach with a pair of free throws for the Stallions with 38 seconds left.
White attributed much of Stansbury’s success to the collective defensive effort against Payson’s two leading scorers, Robbins and Isaac Wolfe. Even though they combined for 19 points, both finished under their season average and they combined to score just five points in the second half.
Stansbury actually looked like it might pull away in the third quarter. It came out of halftime and scored on four of its first five possessions to stretch its lead to 46-35 at the 5:31 mark of the third quarter.
Payson, however, responded with a big run of its own closing the quarter on a 17-5 run to take a 52-51 lead into the fourth. Parker Buys hit two clutch 3-pointers late in the quarter to spur the rally, while Joshua Coronel’s hustle plays on the boards extended some possessions. Coronel finished with a team-high 20 points.
At the quarter break after his team’s double-digit lead had disappeared, White had a simple message for his team.
“In the timeout we talked about trusting each other cause it would’ve been easy to start blaming, but they didn’t. This is what we’ve been handed now let’s go finish. They responded as a team, played great team defense and then executed the offense really well,” said White.
Stansbury is now in great position to try and claim the region title, but if its first six region games are any indicator nothing will come easy with more close games likely to come.