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STANSBURY PARK — A day after they lost a former coach, friend and icon, the Tooele Buffaloes had a basketball game to play against their Region 11 rivals, the Stansbury Stallions.
Call it destiny. Call it fate. Call it whatever you like. This game seemed meant to be for Tooele.
Just 24 hours after former coach John Mahler died in a car accident, the Buffaloes rallied in the fourth quarter behind 27 points from Tyler Woodruff to win the emotionally charged game, 46-41, Friday night.
“It felt great,” said Woodruff. “Coach Mahler coached me as a freshman, and I wanted to win this game for him.”
Niko Chacon led the Stallions with 10.
Tooele had a one-point lead at the end the first quarter, and held onto that one-point lead, 21-20, heading into halftime. Woodruff carried the load in the first half, scoring 16 points for Tooele. Tooele’s Justin Pollmann may have had a zero-point first half, but he would later prove down the stretch why he is the team's leading scorer.
Before that happened, however, Stansbury was able to take control in the third quarter, getting eight points from Chacon in a two-minute span to end the third. Stansbury was able to use the play of Chacon, and tough defense to take a slim 33-31 lead into the final period.
Stansbury led 40-36 with just 3:29 left in the fourth quarter, and looked to have permanent control of the game. That’s when Tooele began its rally. After point guard Shaydan Walker went down with an apparent knee injury, Tooele went to work. Trailing 41-40 with 1:01 left, Pollmann hit a running floater to start a 6-0 run and put Tooele up for good.
“We really thought about Shaydan and coach Mahler,” said Pollmann. “We really wanted to win this one for them. We’re so grateful that we could get the win for Tooele.”
Woodruff scored on a putback layup with 19.5 seconds left, and put the game away with two free throws 13 seconds later.
“It feels great to get some wins under our belt,” said Woodruff. “We’ve beat both our rivals this week, and it feels great.”
Although the Buffaloes are just 2-7 in Region 11, making the 3A tournament is a possibility. If they continue their winning ways, and get a little bit of help, they could sneak into Region 11's fourth spot.
“We’re pretty pumped,” said Pollmann. “We’re pushing for the playoffs. All we need to do is upset some teams and we could find ourselves there.”
Tooele moves to 4-15 on the season and will host Morgan next Wednesday. Stansbury moves to 6-13 on the year and will travel to Ogden to face the Tigers next Wednesday.
CJ Pronk is a Deseret Digital Media intern and a senior at Stansbury High School. Follow CJ on Twitter @BigCeeJ3113