WEST VALLEY CITY -- This one was really ugly, but Northridge is not going to give it back.
In a game no one wanted to win, the Knights escaped a first round upset in the state 5-A boys basketball tournament with a dramatic 43-41 overtime victory against Copper Hills in the Maverik Center on Tuesday afternoon.
Point guard Bryson Niederhauser rebounded a missed shot in a crowd, banked a follow up off the glass and converted the ensuing free throw to give Northridge a 42-41 lead with 1:01 remaining in the extra period.
"Somehow the ball came down into my hands and I ended up with it," Niederhauser said. "I saw two Copper Hills guys, tried to draw a foul, and the ball went in. I knew the game was tied and I tried not to think about it because I haven't shot free throws well this season."
Karson Casteel pulled down a key board with 13.2 seconds left and made 1-of-2 charity tosses for the final margin and send the Knights into a second round meeting with Lone Peak on Thursday at 7:15 p.m.
Free throws turned out to be a premium in a tight game where every possession potentially could turn a goat into a hero and back again with an errant carom of the cowhide globe off the cold hard iron rim.
With the game in the balance, the two teams combined for nine consecutive misses from the line during the end of the fourth quarter and into the overtime period. Northridge shot 54.1 percent (20-of-37) from the line for the game, while Copper Hills only managed 16-of-30 (53.3 percent).
Shooting from the field was even worse, as the Knights were 25.6 percent on the day and Copper Hills didn't fare much better at 30.8 percent.
"Both teams expected to play better," said Northridge coach Chad Sims. "We both wanted to win the game and fortunately we were able to come out on top."
Northridge (14-8) struggled early and the score was Joe Newkirk 4, Grizzlies 10 after one quarter with Newkirk burying a 3-pointer and a free throw for the only points on the board.
Newkirk, recovering from a concussion suffered two weeks ago, was to play limited time by design, but got into foul trouble and fouled out with 3:15 left in the fourth quarter which made it easy for Sims to monitor his minutes.
Things weren't much better in the second stanza and Northridge went into the locker room trailing 14-13 with two of its four single-digit quarters in the books.
The Knights matched their initial half output in a three-plus minute span of the third quarter. Beginning at the 5:04 mark and ending at 1:53, Northridge put up a 13-1 run to take a 26-19 lead.
"We talked about that at halftime," Sims said. "The team that made a run in the third quarter could take control and we had a pretty solid quarter."
But things got sloppy in the fourth quarter and Northridge committed three turnovers within 35 seconds late in the period to let Copper Hills (12-9) back in it.
Casteel led the Knights with 11 points and nine rebounds, while Jesse Armistead came off the bench to net 10 points, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 18 in the third quarter during Northridge's run.