By Wade Denniston The Herald Journal | Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 12:18 am
PRESTON — One of the main goals the Indians set for themselves prior to the start of the season was to reach the state tournament.
Preston is on the cusp of crossing that goal off of its to-do list.
Preston Hobbs had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Kyle Lords added 13 points and the Indians cruised to a 54-36 victory over Rigby in a District 5-6 Tournament elimination game on Tuesday night.
“At the beginning of the year, we made it a team goal that we want to go to state, so we’ve just been taking it one game at a time,” said Hobbs, who also had four steals and two blocks. “I had a good game tonight, but I’m just really proud of my team. Any given night a different player can step up and drop double figures. Our team has been playing really well as of late.”
The Indians (17-6), winners of two straight games and six of their last seven, will now face their third straight district tourney elimination game Thursday night at Century. The winner of that contest will advance to the state tournament.
The Diamondbacks defeated Preston 63-61 last Thursday in the Indians’ first tournament game.
“We were a little disappointed when we lost to Century in the tournament, but the kids have responded,” Preston head coach Tyler Jones said. “They’ve had their heads up and two elimination games in a row we’ve been able to respond and advance, so it tells you a lot about the character of these kids.”
Bonneville beat Century 57-55 on Tuesday to clinch the district’s first berth into the state tourney.
“After that loss to Century, we came out really determined to win every game and get back to that spot where we could get a shot at Century again,” said guard RJ Harris, who recorded a game-high five assists. “I think we played really well tonight. We played as a team and that’s what got us the win.”
Tyrel Phillips paced the two-time defending state champion Trojans (12-12) with 13 points.
“It’s a great feeling having Rigby come into your house and beating them by (nearly) 20 points,” Harris said. “It’s a really great feeling. … It was really physical out there. A couple of words were said, but you’ve just got to play through it all.”
For Jones, the win was especially sweet considering his older brother, Justin, is the head coach of the Trojans.
“He’s a great coach and he’s done a great job at Rigby,” said Tyler Jones, who is three years younger than Justin. “They have a great program and I think the world of him. He does a great job. Obviously, we’re happy to knock them off and continue to play.”
The Trojans shot 26.3 percent on the night and made 1 of the 16 3-point shots they took. On top of that, Landon Larsen, who had torched Preston in two previous meetings this season, was limited to five points on 1 of 12 shooting.
“That was one of the biggest keys to the game, was our defense,” Tyler Jones said. “We were active, our hands were up and we forced tough shots with our defense. They say defense wins big games and championships, and that was definitely key tonight.”
Kayden Killpack scored the first three points of the game for Rigby, which led 3-2 with 5:42 to go in the first quarter.
It was all downhill from there for the Trojans, though.
Rigby went more than eight minutes between field goals and Preston took advantage. The Indians, who got eight points from Kyle Slade, used a game-changing 17-1 run to open up a 19-4 cushion with 6:45 remaining in the first half.
Hobbs played a key role during that spurt with nine points and six rebounds in the first quarter alone.
“He stepped up and had a huge game, both on rebounding and scoring,” Harris said of Hobbs. “He got a lot of offensive and defensive rebounds for us, which helped us a lot.”
The closest the Trojans got the rest of the way was nine points, while the Indians led by as many as 20 in the fourth quarter.
Hobbs made it a point to thank all the fans who came out to support the team.
“We had a really good crowd tonight,” he said. “The student section was huge and loud. The community came out and supported big time, so it was awesome.”
Now, Preston will try to carry this momentum over into Thursday’s showdown with rival Century.
“Everyone has just got to show up ready to play, and we’ve got to play our best game of the season if we want to win,” Hobbs said.
Added Jones: “It’s not going to be easy, but hopefully we can get the whole town of Preston up there to give us a boost. These kids have battled all season and we’re in a position now where we’re one game away from the state tournament. We’re going to battle, we’re going to fight for 32 minutes and if we do that, then we’ll have a chance.”
Preston 54, Rigby 36
Rigby 4 9 11 12 — 36
Preston 15 11 13 15 — 54
Rigby — Nick Huston 3-4 3-4 9, Tyrel Phillips 3-8 7-7 13, Hadyn Landon 2-4 0-0 4, Kayden Killpack 1-1 1-2 3, Landon Larsen 1-12 2-6 5, Braden Boyce 0-0 0-0 0, Garrett Broulim 0-4 1-4 1, Justus McCullough 0-5 1-2 1, Chance Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Bailey Page 0-0 0-0 0.
Preston — Preston Hobbs 8-15 1-4 17, Kyle Slade 3-9 2-4 8, RJ Harris 1-6 2-4 4, Austin Smellie 2-3 0-0 4, Kyle Lords 6-11 1-1 13, Derek Fryar 2-6 0-0 4, Dillan Winward 1-3 0-0 2, Riley Moedl 0-1 2-2 2, Bracken Parker 0-0 0-0 0, Clayton Jensen 0-1 0-0 0, Dallin Fryar 0-1 0-0 0, Matt Willard 0-0 0-0 0, Sawyer Jensen 0-1 0-0 0.
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