KEARNS — Quentin Meza’s calm demeanor is just what the Cyprus Pirates have needed in their matchups against Region 2 rival Kearns over the past four years.
A four-year varsity player, Meza added another chapter — and perhaps the most important one — to the two west-side school’s histories Tuesday night, scoring 25 points as Cyprus held off the Cougars 62-53 to stay undefeated in Region 2 play and clinch their first boys basketball region championship in school history.
Cyprus opened in 1918. The Pirates won the Class B state crown in 1955, but Smith said success on the court has been only occasional. Meza said it was something the team had been working toward since he and many of his teammates began playing together as fourth graders.
Meza made 9-of-15 shots from the field and was 3-4 from 3-point range. He actually put the finishing touch on the game with a spinning layup while being fouled that helped turn away Kearns’ fourth-quarter rally.
“We’ve been in tough spots before,” said Meza, who hit a similar basket in the final seconds at Hunter last week, and the ensuing free throw was the difference in a 53-52 win.
“He is a ‘hooper,’” said coach Tre Smith. “He’s been there before, and it was our team’s toughness that pulled us through. We knew it would be tough to play here (at Kearns).”
The matchup was between the region’s top teams and a makeup of a contest originally scheduled in January that was canceled due to coronavirus concerns. With the win, Cyprus improved to 11-0 in region and 18-5 overall. The Pirates will play their third game in three days Thursday in their regular-season finale against West. Kearns, meanwhile, fell to 18-4 and 9-2. If the Cougars had won, it likely would have resulted in a two-way tie for region title.
Playing in their home gym, but with plenty of fans from both schools, the Cougars pressured Cyprus by making five of their first six 3-point baskets. After that, however, they were just 3-20 from long range, and the Pirates got the upper hand as Meza handled the Kearns press, and then retaliated with 17 second-half points when the Cougars applied more pressure.
The fourth quarter lasted almost as long the first three quarters combined. Cyprus led 40-37 but Justus Jackson-Fobbs and MJ Tia began to take control underneath and Meza, Diego Mulford and Drysten Heard connected 3-pointers to bump the margin to double digits.
Kearns forced several turnovers, and also took advantage of a few controversial officials’ calls to narrow the margin to five points on a 3-pointer from Amare Ames. Cyprus, however, made its free throws and Meza, Jackson-Fobbs and Tia broke down the Kearns defense to score layups or get fouled and prevent Kearns from getting too much momentum.
“We worked together,” Smith said. “It took us a while (this season) to build our team but we came together when we needed.”
The next goal is to try to earn as good of an RPI seed as they can in the state tourney, so the group can try to add to its already impressive year. Meza said the pressure and experience from this type of game should help.