The band was rockin' and the crowd -especially the student section - was pumped as prep hoops made its valley debut Friday, and Thunder Mountain fans did not leave disappointed.
After a sluggish, foul-filled first quarter, the Falcons hit the gas in the second and rolled to a 55-38 win over visiting Petersburg, putting an exclamation point on the school's first-ever boys' basketball win.
"It's exciting," senior guard Reece Saviers said of the landmark win, giving props to the student section Superman sign that matches the tattoo on his shoulder. "We're 100 percent for Thunder Mountain history, and that's pretty cool to be a part of."
"It was a great environment for a first game," coach John Blasco said. "It was packed, and it was fun. The band was playing, the crowd was cheering and the JDHS guys were here. It was just a great environment to be a part of."
Cody Grussendorf scored the first Falcon bucket off an inbound play just 13 seconds in, but Thunder Mountain trailed 10-6 after one quarter as the home team was called for nine fouls.
The Vikings were in the bonus just one minute into the second quarter but luckily for Thunder Mountain, Petersburg shot just 7-for-14 from the stripe in the first half.
"We were reaching," Blasco admitted. "I told the guys that it was the refs' first game, too, and we were reaching every time. I said that we had to move our feet, and we got better in the second half."
Grussendorf cut a five-point, 19-14 deficit to two after driving to the hoop for an and-1, and then tied the game at 19-all after knocking down 2-of-3 free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt.
Saviers tied the game again at 22 after splashing a wide-open 3 from the wing, and Grussendorf then tried to bring the house down but missed a one-handed dunk after a steal.
Grussendorf made up for it by knifing through traffic for a lay-up, and TMHS took a 24-22 lead into the locker room at the break.
Saviers said the team talked about coming out more aggressive in the second half after Petersburg handled the Falcons' fullcourt press fairly effectively in the first. The pressure paid off as Thunder Mountain forced 14 second-half turnovers.
"They moved (the press) back to halfcourt, and we're young," Vikings coach Rick Brock said of the way the Falcons were able to defend much more effectively after the break. "I have a very young squad and I was really happy we competed in the first half and attacked the pressure. When they moved it back, we just didn't make the right adjustments."
Thunder Mountain made a conscious effort to pound the ball inside to Jazz King in the third quarter as the Falcons began to take over. After not scoring in the first half and spending time on the bench because of foul trouble, King scored eight in the third, mostly off turn-around buckets inside.
"He was frustrated in the first half," Blasco said of King. "We sat him down and ... told him that we were going to give him a chance and get the ball inside. And he made things happen. He loves to bang in the post, we got the ball inside to him and he did his thing. It really opened up things for our guards."
Keith Ainsworth scored in the paint off a nice dish from King to push the lead to 37-28, and the Falcons led 39-31 after three.
Grussendorf, who finished with 20 points to lead the Falcons, nailed a pull-up 18-footer after a steal to start the fourth, and the onslaught was on. Ben Hotch threw a beautiful pass to a streaking Jack Clark for a lay-up on the next play and the Falcons stretched their lead to 14 before Petersburg's Sam Volk drained a triple to stop the bleeding at the 4:31 mark.
That would be the only field goal for Petersburg in the final frame.
Hotch made a steal and hit Saviers for a lay-up to make it 48-34, and a Saviers triple from the wing pushed the lead to 53-35 with about two minutes to go. Grussendorf hit King under the basket with a cross-court pass for the Falcons' final bucket.
Saviers scores 28 as Falcons roll
Thunder Mountain exploded from the gate Saturday behind its relentless pressure defense, along with seven 3-pointers and 28 points from Reese Saviers and rolled to a 66-35 pasting of Petersburg.
"I wasn't sure how we'd come out after the excitement from (Friday), but we came out hard and we came out aggressive," coach John Blasco said. "We kept working on the defensive pressure today and made some improvements. Offensively, Reece had a huge game for us, obviously. I don't know how big that bucket was looking to him, but we just kept feeding him."
The game started with a blistering early pace as both teams traded buckets back and forth. There were four ties in the first four minutes of the game, with Thunder Mountain evening things up for the last time at 10-all on a stickback by senior forward Brian Koenig, igniting a 14-0 run.
Saviers got a lay-up after a steal by junior forward Jazz King, and Koenig scored inside. Sophomore guard Jack Gates scored off a dish from senior forward Cody Grussendorf to make it 16-10, and Torey Franzen drilled a 3-pointer from the wing after a Koenig steal before Grussendorf hit a free throw after another steal.
A third Grussendorf steal led to a layup, and King scored inside after a fourth Grussendorf steal. A triple at the buzzer by Petersburg junior guard Jase Payne cut the Falcons' first-quarter lead to 24-15.
Each team scored four points apiece to start the second quarter, but Saviers then caught fire, draining three straight triples, the third making it a 39-20 game in favor of the Falcons, who took a 41-24 advantage into the locker room at the break.
The Falcons forced 14 turnovers in the first half alone.
TMHS coudldn't sustain its torid pace after the break, but was able to double up the Vikings by the end of the third, leading 52-26. Petersburg cut it to 20, 52-32, early in the fourth, but Saviers would hit two more 3-pointers, and a lay-up by Gates after a crazy series of turnovers and players diving for loose balls set the final score.
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