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Dave Noriega, KSL TV

Hillcrest boys 'find way to win' on Ashby's buzzer-beater in 4A tourney opener

By Sean Walker | Posted - Feb. 28, 2017 at 5:49 p.m.


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OREM — Stockton Ashby has been in similar positions before with Hillcrest’s boys basketball team.

The Huskies won three Region 6 games by three points or less, and they found themselves in a similar do-or-die position, down one to Salem Hills in the final seconds of the Class 4A boys basketball state tournament opener at Utah Valley University.

“We’ve been in close game after close game this year,” Hillcrest coach Samuel Richins said. “I think this is our seventh that’s come down to a last-second shot.

“Even though it got scary, these kids find a way to win.”

Ashby scored 13 points, including a driving layup in the final seconds, to help Hillcrest survive the Skyhawks 59-58 and advance to the 4A quarterfinals Thursday at Weber State.

“We’ve had a lot of close games,” Ashby said. “We haven’t won a game in the state tournament in a long time, and this meant a lot to me.

“They had been running the 1-3-1 all night … and I knew if they went up there, I was going to do everything I could. I wasn’t nervous. I knew that if I got it, I’d just go and we’d be able to do it.”

Tekarli Bassel led Hillcrest (16-6) with 16 points and four assists, and Brox Ashby had nine points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals for the Huskies.

But when it came down to one final shot, the Huskies knew which number to call.

“Anytime we can get the ball to Stockton in the middle of the court, we’re thrilled with it,” Richins said. “In the middle of the court, he does some really nice things with it.”

Salem Hills (14-10) took a 58-57 lead when Kaleb DeGraffenried scored in the lane with only 18 seconds remaining.

Hillcrest coach Samuel Richins called timeout and looked to his senior for the winning play.

“They just have that resolve to find ways to win,” Richins said. “We had a lot of younger kids contribute tonight; it was fun to watch all three Ashby brothers (Stockton, Brox and McKay) get in there and get significant minutes. I think the freshman (Brox) probably was our MVP tonight. He’s so quick, and he shoots the ball well.”

After a first quarter that finished tied at 11, the Huskies began to pull away in the second quarter. Bassel dropped in his second 3-pointer of the quarter to give the Huskies a 26-18 lead with 1:13 to go until halftime, and Hillcrest marched to a 30-23 lead at the break.

The Skyhawks cut the deficit as low as three points in the third quarter, but could never get any closer until Ben DeGraffenried capped an 8-1 run to tie the game at 43 with just under six minutes to play. James Nelson gave the Skyhawks a 50-45 advantage with 4:29 left on a reverse layup in transition at the end of a 7-0 run.

Stockton Ashby hit 3-of-4 free throws in a four-second span to give the Huskies a 57-56 lead with 39 seconds remaining, setting up the drama in the final half-minute.

Nelson led Salem Hills with 24 points, nine rebounds and three steals, and Kaleb DeGraffenried had 13 points and two assists.

“They were great,” Ashby said. “That (Nelson) is a stud, and they got a lot of physical guys. But we had a lot of guys step up.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys that can just make life really hard.”

Maple Mountain 78, Murray 48

At UVU, Parker Christensen scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the first half to help the Region 8 top seed Golden Eagles overwhelm Murray and advance to Thursday’s 4A quarterfinals against Corner Canyon.

Tyler Boyack added 16 points and four assists, including four 3-pointers, for the Golden Eagles (17-6), who got 13 points and five rebounds from William Rhatigan and 11 points and eight rebounds from Dawson Beutler.

Maple Mountain started to pull away at the end of the first quarter. The Golden Eagles took a 10-0 run into the second period, capped by Parker Christensen’s triple that beat the horn at the quarter to go up 21-11.

The Eagles doubled up the Spartans 22-11 in the second quarter to take a commanding 43-22 lead at halftime and cruise to the win.

Alec Vahn had 14 points to lead Murray (11-14).

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Sean Walker

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