Growing up fast: Young Tigers upset No. 6 seed Lehi in 5A boys basketball quarterfinals
OGDEN — With five underclassmen starters, including two freshmen, the Orem boys basketball team finished the regular season with a 14-10 record and earned the No. 14 seed in the 5A state tournament.
In other words, probably not ready for prime time.
Instead, the young Tigers — which includes first-year head coach Jace Tavita — stepped onto the big stage at the Dee Events Center in Ogden and thrived under the bright lights, knocking off No. 6 Lehi 58-50 in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday.
Tavita, a first-year assistant under Perry Wildeboer at Orem last year, turned to the Tigers crowd behind the team bench when the game was in hand and pounded a fist against his chest, screaming, “Come on! This is what we do!”
His team has grown up in the past week, which included a surprising road playoff win at No. 5 seed Woods Cross last Friday.
“It’s just tough love and expectations,” Tavita said. “We hold them to a high standard because they do have the talent to come and do things like they did tonight. It was about confidence and experience and our confidence is growing.”
Freshman Anthony Felesi scored 24 points as Orem got out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter and answered every Lehi challenge. The Tigers made all the big plays, including an off-balance corner 3-pointer from Lance Reynolds with two minutes to play to quell a Pioneers rally.
“I honestly don’t remember what we were running,” Reynolds said. “I was sitting in the corner and Chance (Dastrup) led me a little bit further that I thought with the pass. So I just threw it up and it went in.”
That basket gave Orem a 48-38 lead and the Tigers put the game away at the foul line.
Cooper Lewis, who scored 31 points for Lehi (19-6), tried to will his team back into the game with 14 points in the fourth quarter. Felesi and Chance Dastrup each made 4 of 4 from the free throw line in the final 30 seconds to keep the Pioneers at bay.
Felesi drove in for a two-handed dunk, then banged in a 3-pointer to tie the game at 11 in the first quarter. Felesi and fellow freshman Kai Wesley scored back-to-back buckets to end the first quarter to give Orem a 15-13 lead and the Tigers just kept adding to the advantage. A 12-2 burst, with 3-pointers from Felesi and Asher Young, pushed the Orem lead to 27-15 at the 3:28 mark of the second quarter. The Tigers went in at halftime holding that 12-point advantage, 29-17, at halftime.
It was Lehi’s first double-digit halftime deficit since Dec. 9 against Oak Cliff Academy (Texas), when the Pioneers trailed 30-17 at the break and ending up losing 54-49.
Orem led by as many as 14 points (33-19) after Young and Felesi scored baskets early in the third quarter. Lehi managed to close to seven, 38-31, on a 3-point play by Lewis and a rebound hoop by Easton Hawkins, to close the third quarter, but never could catch the Tigers.
Young scored 12 points and added eight rebounds for Orem and Wesley contributed nine points.
The win means a lot to Tavita, who was a player at Brighton when Lehi coach Quincy Lewis was the head man at powerhouse Lone Peak during the late 2000’s.
“We tried to game plan and put our kids in a position to be successful,” Tavita said. “Credit to them. They followed the game plan and made plays. When you have a young team, you’re going to have ups and downs and some nights where they could be a top four team and other nights where they don’t look so great. So you just try to stay consistent with them, hold them accountable and keep pushing them. You just show up and the game experience pays off.”
The Pioneers which beat the Tigers twice by double digits during the regular season, were just 5 of 23 (22%) from the 3-point line in Wednesday’s loss.
Orem (15-10) will face another Region 8 foe, No. 7 seed Timpview, in the late semifinal on Friday. The two teams split their regular season meetings, with the T-Birds winning by 46-43 at Orem and the Tigers claiming a 68-60 road victory two weeks later.
“It’s going to be crazy Friday night,” said Reynolds, whose father, Lance Reynolds, Jr., played football at Timpview before a career at BYU. “It’s going to be a fun one. I don’t think it gets much better than that rivalry. Both times we played we had huge student sections and a ton of people at the game. So I expect a big crowd for the game.”
Orem reached the semifinal round for the first time since making the 4A Final Four in 2018.
Felesi 24, Young 12, Reynolds 7, Dastrup 4, Wesley 9, Hiatt 2. Totals 21 11-14 58.
Lewis 31, B. Hawkins 2, Anderson 2, Brousseau 10, E. Hawkins 5. Totals 20 5-5 50.
Orem 15 14 9 20 — 58
Lehi 13 4 14 19 — 50
3-pointers: Orem 5 (Felesi 2, Young 2, Reynolds); Lehi 5 (Lewis 4, E. Hawkins).