University High’s youthful Cubs fought off a fourth-quarter Dunham comeback to take a 60-53 win over the Tigers and tighten their hold on first place in District 7-2A on Tuesday night at Dunham.
It was the second time U-High (24-2, 9-0 in district) has defeated the Dunham (19-6, 6-2) in district play, and U-High coach Joe Spencer said this game was a little different than the first one.
“The scenario was kind of the same, but last time we were able to pull away in the fourth quarter,” Spencer said. “Tonight, they wouldn’t let us do that. They’ve got good players, they’re well-coached and they fought hard right up to the last seconds.”
Once U-High went ahead 12-10 in the first quarter, the closest Dunham came the rest of the way was a one-point deficit at 29-28.
They narrowed the lead to five points, twice in the final two minutes but could never pull even. They outscored the Cubs 14-13 in the final quarter, but U-High hit 9-of-10 free throws to ice the win.
The Cubs’ four freshmen starters took turns coming up with big plays.
Wayde Sims led the way with 16 points, 13 rebounds, six blocks and a steal. Jalen Johnson had 14 points.
Skylar Mays finished with 10, including four key fourth-quarter free throws.
U-High’s two upperclassmen, Henry Shortess and Chris Moore, made their contributions in fourth quarter, combining for seven of their team’s final 13 points.
“The thing that has helped us this year is our balance,” Spencer said. “Sometimes I get nervous seeing all of them (the freshmen) out there, but they’ve got experience beyond their years. They’re doing a great job.”
The Tigers had some big plays of their own in trying to come back from behind. Quentin Thomas had three 3-pointerss, two of them in fourth quarter on his way to a 23-point night.
Jiren Walker had two 3-pointers in the second quarter, and Dylan Maggio tallied 12 points on the night.
“We kind of ran into a buzz saw tonight,” Dunham coach Jonathan Pixley said.
“Their length gives us a lot of trouble, and their ninth graders don’t play like ninth graders. They’ve played a lot of basketball, they’re mature, and they’re one of the best teams in the state.”
The teams traded baskets to start the first quarter in what looked to be a shooting match in the making. Sims and Johnson scored six each for the Cubs in the quarter, and Thomas led the Tigers with six.
With the score tied at 10, U-High mounted an 8-1 run that led to an 18-13 lead at the end of one quarter.
After U-High stretched the lead to 23-15 to open the second quarter, Jiren Walker shot the Tigers back into the game with two quick 3-pointers. Thomas added five points as Dunham cut the lead to 31-28 at halftime.
U-High was 6-of-7 at the free-throw line in the second quarter.
The Cubs’ biggest lead of the game was 10 points at 49-39 midway through the fourth quarter before Dunham made its final surge.
“As a team we didn’t back down, but we couldn’t get over the hump,” Pixley said. “We’d cut it to four and trade baskets instead of getting a stop and cutting it to two.”