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OREM — Highland’s Liki Makaui had taken the shot several times.
Just never outside of practice.
With the clock winding down on a tie game in the Rams’ Class 4A boys basketball state tournament opener against Timpview, Makaui wasn’t sure he’d get the chance to take a the final shot.
The sophomore got the ball — and made the most of it.
Makaui had 11 points, including the game-winning 30-footer at the buzzer, to help the Region 6 four-seed Rams stun the Region 7 champion Thunderbirds, 54-51 Tuesday at Utah Valley University.
“All I could think was to get the shot off and hope to make it,” said Makaui, who also had three rebounds, an assist and a steal. “My teammate got the rebound, he was double teamed, and I was wide open. It was my time to turn it on.”
Liki Makaui gives @HighlandHighSLC a 54-51 win over @timpviewsportspic.twitter.com/ciNfWJLLbZ— Sean Walker (@DSeanKSL) March 1, 2017
Elijah Shelton led Highland (13-11) with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Trayton Keyes had eight points, nine rebounds and three steals for the Rams, who forced 15 turnovers against arguably the top 4A team in Utah County.
“We practiced it over the last couple of days,” Highland coach Jim Boyce said. “We had a session on last-second shots … and if we had a timeout, we concluded to let them play. I’ve got pretty good athletes, and I’m glad we did.
“He made a great shot. The game-winning shot. It’s awesome.”
The Thunderbirds (18-6) began to pull away in the second quarter. Hunter Erickson scored three of his game-high 15 points to give Timpview a 30-22 advantage with 3:08 left in the half, and the Thunderbirds hit the break up, 35-27.
“Our coaches just told us all we had to do was take it one possession at a time,” Makaui said. “That’s what we did, and that’s how we got the W.”
But Highland came back.
Oscar Maxfield canned a triple to pull the No. 4 seed from Region 5 within one, with just two minutes left in the third quarter, and the Rams were tied at 39-39 heading into the fourth quarter.
Charlie Gochnour gave Highland a 45-41 lead with 4:35 left, but neither team could find much separation in the final period.
Highland led for just 2:16 of game time, more than three minutes less than the game was tied (5:36). The Rams made 7-of-10 field goals in an efficient fourth quarter where they held the Thunderbirds to just four makes.
“We wanted to try to stay out on their shooters, and we tried that; they still made shots,” Boyce said. “We feel pretty fortunate that they missed a few shots down the stretch.
“They shoot lights out, and lucky for us they made some shots down the stretch.”
Erickson pushed the Thunderbirds back in front, 51-49, on a trey from the right corner with 1:45 left. But Highland scored quickly on the other end, and both teams remained tied when Timpview coach Kevin Santiago signaled for a timeout with 21.3 seconds left.
The Thunderbirds missed the shot on that possession, and Shelton picked up the rebound with about 10 seconds on the clock. Highland had one timeout, but they didn’t burn it.
“I wanted to foul before, but I missed my two free throws, so I had to give it up,” Shelton said. “I looked for Liki; we practiced it all week, to look for the last shot, and just executed it at the last second.
“Our shooter (Maxfield) was supposed to get the ball. But I put my trust in Liki; he’s a good shooter, and he makes big plays at big times, as you can see.”
Makaui took the pass around midcourt, dribbled around the green-and-white Wolverine logo at midcourt, and pulled up from the edge of the graphic to swish his first 3-pointer of the game at the buzzer.
“This is probably the most athletic team I’ve coached,” Boyce said. “I just put them in spots, and they make plays.”
The Rams advance to play Hillcrest in 4A quarterfinals Thursday at 3 p.m. MT at Weber State.
Corner Canyon 62, Bountiful 42
At UVU, Michael Scheffner and John Mitchell each had 14 points and six rebounds as the Chargers rolled the Braves in a first-round matchup.
Hayden Welling supplied 11 points for the balanced Chargers (16-7), who had eight players score.
Ryan Pollard led Bountiful (9-15) with 13 points, and Brig Willard added 11 points and eight rebounds.