WEST JORDAN — Copper Hills had been building for this 5A play-in game for a long time. When tipoff arrived Saturday afternoon, they were ready.
Parker Bailey scored 17 points, Dylan Carter added 12 and Aric Flitton had 11, as the Grizzlies had their best game of the season from long range in beating Layton 59-42 to advance to the 5A state tournament for the third consecutive year.
“We made announcements all week and asked all the students to come,” said coach Kent Smith. “We did everything we could to build this into an event.”
The Grizzlies wanted another opportunity to go to state, where they surprised a lot of people by advancing all the way to the quarterfinals last year. There was a boisterous student section, the school band was on hand, and it led to a big day for the Grizzlies.
They jumped on the visitors early, making six of their first seven 3-point baskets and built a lead that reached 26 points (53-27) at one point.
Copper Hills improved to 11-11 on the season and advanced to play Murray at 5:30 p.m. on Monday at Weber State’s Dee Events Center. Layton, the fifth-place finisher from Region 1, finished at 10-12.
“Our game plan was to take (Copper Hills’ leading scorer) Colton Neff away,” said Layton coach Kelby Miller. “We had heard that they had a couple of good shooters, but they had a special night tonight. “
Neff, who was averaging 17.1 points per game, had just five points. However, his usual playmaking abilities weren’t needed. Copper Hills was in command the entire game. Bailey ended up making five 3-pointers, Carter and Flitton had two apiece and Adam Talbot added another.
Each 3-pointer also inspired the home crowd, and the Grizzlies built on it. They never relinquished the momentum.
“We were on fire,” said Smith. “The fans loved it. They were great, and they’ve been great all year.”
Smith said Copper Hills’ focus was on Layton center Rees Checketts and guard Brandon Kida. Checketts finished with 15 points, but was constantly hounded by double teams the entire game. Kida had eight points, but most came later in the game when the outcome was decided.
“Every coach I spoke to said, ‘When Kida scores points, they have a good game,'” he said. “Dylan Carter did a fabulous job not letting him get any open shots.”
Bruce Smith is owner of Matchup, a Utah-based company that provides high school sports teams with various publications. For information, see www.matchupUT.com.