Timpview entered Tuesday’s game winners of five straight and having just beaten fourth-ranked Alta. The Thunderbirds were looking to extend the momentum through the end of the season.
Orem had other ideas.
There was certainly no love lost between the two Region 8 rivals and after going back-and-forth for most of the game, Orem came up with big play after big play in the final two minutes to upset Timpview 68-60.
With the game on the line in a hostile environment, senior Daniel Okonah stepped up. It was Okonah’s tightly-contested 3 pointer with under a minute remaining that sent the Orem faithful into a frenzy and all but sealed the win for the Tigers.
“I just practice moments time and time again and now it just came to fruition,” Okonah said. “It feels amazing.”
“It was great,” said Orem coach Jace Tavita. “Especially with our team being so young, it was good to see them in a game like this. It was a good win for us.”
When the two foes matched earlier this season, it was a dogfight type game, with Timpview grinding out a 46-43 win. During the first quarter, it seemed like the rematch was headed for the same type of style, as both the Tigers and T-birds struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
The second quarter remained tight, but each team found sparks on the offensive side of the ball. For Timpview, it was Quezon Villa, scoring six of Timpview’s 17 points in the quarter.
On the other side, it was Chance Dastrup lighting it up from 3 that helped Orem to the one-point halftime advantage. Dastrup entered the locker room with 12 points to lead the Tigers.
“Something we have struggled with all year is turnovers, but they took care of the ball tonight, gave up a good shot for a great shot, and then just rebounded,” said Tavita.
The contest became a game of runs in the third quarter. After an early Orem 3 gave the Tigers a 33-29 lead, Timpview rolled off a 7-0 run, forcing an Orem timeout.
Just a few moments later, trailing Timpview 40-36, it was Orem’s turn to start a run, a mini 5-0 burst that gave the Tigers the lead back. The ping-pong like attack continued until the final buzzer, when a late Timpview 3 had the T-birds ahead 46-44.
With neither team gaining much of an advantage, momentum looked as if it would swing the host’s way with just under three minutes left in the game. Timpview’s Dean Rueckert drove down the baseline and slammed the ball through the hoop through contact. While the refs whistled the and-one, Rueckert made contact with the Orem defender after the play. After deliberation, Rueckert was assessed a technical foul.
The crowd, once raucous and on their feet after the poster slam, were settled by the lengthy delay, which ultimately gave Orem two free throws and the ball.
“For us, interesting enough, first game of the year our freshman had a dunk and a technical,” Tavita said. “So it was interesting to see our young kids lock in and finish the game.”
After splitting the two technical foul shots, the Tigers and T-birds founds themselves where they had most of the night: all evened up.
After a missed free throw on the Timpview side and a reverse lay-in by Orem’s Anthony Felesi, who led the Tigers on the night with 18 points, the Tigers defense stood strong, forcing a Timpview turnover and giving Orem the chance to extend the lead.
“We called a timeout and challenged them to get three stops and three scores, and they responded,” Tavita said.
The response was Okonah’s dagger three and two free throws down the stretch to clinch the win.
“I got emotional,” Tavita said. “A kid who is a senior, in a big game like this to have that moment. You love to see the hard working paying off.”
After playing late game heroics, Okonah will now focus to his senior night this upcoming Friday as the Tigers host another valley rival in Mountain View. The T-birds, who were led by Rueckert’s 17 points, will travel to Jordan for their final regular season matchup.
While both teams certainly aren’t looking past either opponent, each knows the state tournament is just around the corner.
“It builds confidence for us, because we started the season off okay but now we are starting to find our groove,” said Okonah.
“Now we are going to be ready for state.”