CEDAR CITY – Every once in awhile a coach has to light into his players if he’s going to get any results. Craig Cardon got after his team and the young men responded with a big second half against Union.
The result was a 58-41 Cedar win Friday night in the first round of the 3A state playoffs.
“I had to pull out my ‘Start a fire’ speech,” Cardon said. “We started well with the energy of the crowd and hit a couple of jump shots and got a false sense that this was going to be an easy game. Union is a good team. The guys needed to understand that.”
Cedar led 13-2 midway through the first quarter, but went cold, allowing the Cougars a 13-2 run that forced a 15-15 tie with just a couple of minutes before halftime. A halftime buzzer-beater by Kordan Nielson put the Redmen up 22-18.
Union stayed close until late in the third quarter. At 34-28, Cedar created two straight turnovers that led to baskets by Brock Englestead. The second hoop was a 3-pointer that came at the third quarter buzzer and lifted Cedar to a 39-28 lead.
Englestead scored again to start the fourth quarter and a Mike Hourigan 3-pointer completed a 10-0 run and made the game a 44-28 blowout.
“Intensity in the second half was the difference,” said big man Dustin Staggs, who had 11 points and three blocks in the game. “Coach got after us a little bit and we picked it up in the second half.”
Union center Stephen Merrell had 18 points when the two teams met earlier this season. He was held scoreless Friday night.
“I had to show that I could guard him,” Staggs said. “That was really important to me. He played pretty well against us the first time.”
Cedar, 15-7, advances to the quarterfinals of the 3A State Tournament with the victory. The Redmen, who were led in scoring by Nielson (14 points and three 3-pointers) and Staggs, play Thursday at 2:30 p.m. against Morgan, the No.1-ranked team in the state at Weber State University’s Dee Events Center.
Jona Wood led the Cougars with 16 points. Union finishes the season with an 8-13 record.
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