By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Kevin McInnis
SALT LAKE CITY – If Friday’s action at the Utah state 4A and 5A boys basketball state tournament proved nothing else, it showed that you never really know what you think you know. With starting guard Ryan Lambson missing due to injury putting Highland at a disadvantage, it seemed the most likely game to get out of hand on the scoreboard was the Rams’ matchup with Timpview.
Instead, that was the closest game on a day that featured three games that ultimately were not that competitive on the scoreboard. Sometimes, that’s what you get, even in the state semifinals.
There wasn’t a ton of high drama on the court at the Huntsman Center, but there were definitely some performances that stood out. Here are my takes on Friday’s top stories.
Olympus 70, Woods Cross 42 (4A semifinal)
From the outset, this game had the look of a one-sided affair, mostly because Olympus came out of the gates on fire and the hot shooting never really slowed down. The Titans built the lead gradually, and finally with a 9-2 run to open the third quarter, they essentially put Woods Cross in the rear-view mirror for good.
The chief instigator in this one was junior guard Matt Lindsey. He scored on a variety of shots in the lane during a 10-point first quarter and then moved out beyond the three-point arc during the second, draining a trio of 3-pointers as he built a 19-point first half.
Even with that, the halftime advantage was just nine points. When Isaac Monson joined more heavily in the scoring party, Olympus blew the game wide open in the third and then cruised to an impressive win.
Timpview 59, Highland 49 (4A semifinal)
With Lambson out of the lineup after dislocating his knee cap in Wednesday’s contest, Highland entered Friday’s game absent a critical playmaker. Facing the state’s top-ranked team made the issue more complicated for the Rams.
As they have done often throughout the season, and particularly well through the tournament, the Thunderbirds had a great deal of success scoring points by posting up 6-3 wide-body AJ Bollinger. The senior had 12 points by intermission, all coming from his array of post moves within two feet of the rim.
Interestingly, the Timpview offense does not feature Gavin Baxter, leaving him to find opportunities where he can get them. While Bollinger did a lot of the dirty work down in the paint, Baxter had three spectacular dunks, including a strong alley-oop finish on a pass from Levi Wilson in the second half. The BYU-bound (after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Washington, D.C.) senior scored 10 of his 12 points after the break.
The story in this one is what turned a one-point game after three quarters into a final 10-point margin of victory, the Thunderbirds fourth-quarter defense. They forced Highland into uncomfortable situations and the Rams’ shot selection went south, allowing Timpview to pull away down the stretch.
Brevin Elsholz was the story offensively once again for Highland as the guard connected on 7-of-11 shots, scoring 20 points. Christopher Shelton hit on 7-of-10 shots and scored 15 as well, but Baxter made life difficult for Highland star Rick Schmidt and a great effort for a short-handed team fell short.
Bollinger finished with 20 points and seven rebounds to pace Timpview, despite missing a stretch of the third and fourth quarters after tweaking an ankle. Colson Santiago hit some big treys and buried the free throws down the stretch to score 13.
Copper Hills 58, Westlake 40 (5A semifinal)
Westlake picked a bad time to go into a shooting slump. It started badly for the Thunder, who hit on 35 percent of their first-half shots, but it went from bad to worse after intermission. Against a team that puts on the kind of pressure that Copper Hills does, it was a rough combination.
Down 11 at the half, Westlake made a bit of a run, scoring the first seven points of the second half, but the next eight points went to the Grizzlies and the lead became too much to overcome. It was actually an unheralded big man who sees limited time off the bench who kept Westlake around early, when the Copper Hills defense took away other options. Marqus Gilson scored eight points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first half.
Aside from Gilson and Asa McCord (7-for-14), the rest of the Thunder connected on just 4-of-31 shots. That’s not a recipe for success against Copper Hills, which competes are hard as any team in the state.
One story of the game was that the Grizzlies avoided any kind of letdown less than 24 hours after a huge win over Lone Peak. The other story is balance – No single Copper Hills player took more than eight shots, and they got 16 points from Charlie Olsen, 14 from Stockton Shorts and 13 from Preston Sanchez to earn the right to face region rival Bingham for the fourth time this year, with the state title on the line.
Bingham 71, Layton 42 (5A semifinal)
For 15 minutes and 57 seconds, Julian Blackmon and Layton were nipping at the heels of favored Bingham in the final 5A semifinal matchup Friday night. Then, Yoeli Childs happened.
A four-point game became a relatively tame seven-point contest at halftime when the 6-8 forward drained a long 3-pointer to close out the half.
Whether they drew fuel from that finish or just came out with a new sense of purpose after the break, that was the beginning of the end for the Lancers. Bingham owned the second half, fueled by Childs at both ends, but more impressively with his defense. The BYU-bound big man blocked four shots in rapid success in the third quarter during a stretch when the Miners pulled away to a huge advantage. Less heralded guards Lleyton Parker and Simote Lokotui were both very active in the third. Parker scored nine points in the period, while Lokotui had six as the Miners outscored Layton 23-11 in the quarter.
From there, Bingham rolled to the impressive huge win. Blackmon finished with 18 points, the only Lancer to reach double figures.
Childs had major numbers for the Miners, with 20 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. Impressively, Bingham had five players in double digits, as Parker (14), Schyler Shoemaker (12), Lokotui (11) and Samuta Avea (11) joined Childs in that territory.