Timpview junior guard/forward Jake Wahlin stepped to the end line to take the ball out of bounds for the Thunderbirds.
He knew it was a critical moment in the big Region 7 game at Timpanogos. Time was winding down in the fourth quarter and his team had seen its 12-point lead whittled down to just three in the face of the relentless Timberwolf pressure.
How could Wahlin change the momentum?
“We knew they were going to bring the pressure,” Wahlin said. “What they are best at is pressuring the ball full court. We have been passive going against it, so I wanted to go downhill right at them like they had been going at us.”
Wahlin passed the ball in and immediately got it back, taking the ball the length of the court. Instead of allowing Timpanogos to get set, he went right at the basket and scored while getting fouled.
His “and-1” 3-point play proved to be the play Timpview needed to regain its bearings and hold on to defeat the Timberwolves, 64-55.
“That was a giant play,” Thunderbird head coach Kevin Santiago said. “Timpanogos is so good at denying the ball on the inbounds pass. He was able to get the ball in, get it back and took off.”
Wahlin called it a “season-defining moment” for Timpview because in the first meeting between the two talented teams, Timpanogos had rallied back after trailing late and ended up beating the Thunderbirds in overtime.
“In the first game, they hit and we didn’t fight back in overtime,” Wahlin said. “Our mindset coming in was that that wasn’t going to happen again.”
Santiago was proud of how his team responded when they were challenged down the stretch.
“Guys stepped up and played tougher,” Santiago said. “We’ll take it. Timpanogos is a really good basketball team.”
Timberwolf head coach Izzy Ingle said Timpview did the little things better than his team did.
“We are big on effort and energy and discipline — and I feel like we did a pretty good job on those things,” Ingle said. “It was the little things that got us. We told the guys in the locker room that when Duke plays Kentucky, someone has to win and someone has to lose. If they play each other 10 times, maybe each would win five. That’s how I feel about this matchup because it was two great teams going at it. We just have to do more of the little things to win.”
Timpanogos built a 7-point lead in the second quarter but the T’Bird rallied to lead by a point at halftime. The script was flipped after the break as Timpview locked down on the Timberwolf shooters.
“Our defense in the third quarter helped us pull away,” Santiago said. “We walled up on their guys who like to drive and they didn’t get to the rim like they like to. Two guys who made a big difference but might not show up on the box score were Jacob Gates and Jaxon Santiago, who both played tough defense.”
The visitors went up 53-41 before the frenetic Timpanogos defense started speeding up Timpview and forcing mistakes, setting up the tense moment where Wahlin came up big for the Thunderbirds.
Timpview junior guard Coleman Ford finished with 20 points to lead the way, while Wahlin added 19 points. The Timberwolves got 19 points from junior Jackson Holcomb in the losing effort.
Wahlin and Santiago are determined that the tougher mentality will be a hallmark of the Thunderbird squad moving forward.
“We had our toughest practices of the year last week and this was our toughest game all season,” Wahlin said. “Toughness was our mindset and we are coming like that for the rest of the season.”
Santiago said that as teams get into February with the state tournament looming, developing physical and mental toughness is vital.
“The team that plays the toughest is going to win,” Santiago said. “We talk a lot about being tough and solid. Our guys probably hear that word 5,000 times a day. Hopefully it brainwashes them. Tonight’s game came down to four or five tough plays, which is why I’m so proud of them.”
Timpview (15-4, 5-3) next hosts Alta on Feb. 4, while Timpanogos (14-5, 5-3) plays at Orem the same evening.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.