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WEST VALLEY CITY — Lone Peak knows how to win high-stakes games in the state tournament.
It wasn't the typical dominating performance the defending state champions usually deliver, however, the result was the same. The Knights limped to three points in the second quarter, attempted one free throw the entire first half and shot 5-of-23 from 3-point land, collectively.
Yet Lone Peak still managed to record the 56-36 win over Northridge in the 5A quarterfinals at the Maverik Center Thursday night.
"I think one thing that was important is we got the lead early," said Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis. "They did slow it down and I don't think that necessarily hurt us on the defensive end, (but) offensively we got a little bit out of rhythm. We didn't play as smart as we needed to in the second quarter; then in the second half we really turned it on."
The Knights (20-3) outscored Northridge 35-18 in the second half to clinch a spot in the 5A semifinals against West Jordan at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Lone Peak, leading 9-5 in the first quarter, looked out of rhythm. With the ball, the Knights quickly tossed contested long-range shots and rimmed out multiple point-blank looks.
It wasn't until sophomore T.J. Haws caught fire that there was sign of any life offensively.
Haws, an unsung court general, scored seven straight points on a quick layup, a pull-up 3-pointer and a break-away bucket to give Lone Peak the 18-8 advantage after the first eight minutes.
"I just tried to take it to the basket a little more to start the game," said Haws, who finished with a game-high 16 points, five rebounds and four steals. "That helped with my outside shot, got me going a little bit."
Then things got ugly.
Northridge (14-9) upped its defensive intensity, but more importantly started executing with the ball by emphasizing ball-control and patience.
The northern Knights held Lone Peak to three points and finished the quarter on a 7-0 run behind Preston Christensen, the only Northridge player to eclipse double figures (12), to pull within three points at halftime.
During the stretch, Lone Peak willingly settled for outside shots and hurried possessions. In the first half, the Knights attempted one free throw that came courtesy of team fouls rather than drawing contact.
"We felt like, 'hey, we can get 3s and we still want to shoot them but there has to be a balance,'" said Lewis.
Nick Emery, the second-leading scorer in 5A and the state leader in 3-pointers per game, was ice-cold. In the first half, the BYU commit shot an abysmal 1-for-7 with three points.
"He went through a stretch where he just settled for jump shots," Lewis said of Emery. "Again, it's a situation of balance. It's not that I don't want him taking those shots, but there has to be a balance to it."
Emery finished 6-of-18 for 15 points and 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Because Lone Peak's rhythm offensively appeared out of whack its defense carried the load. The Knights forced 20 Northridge turnovers which translated to 26 points.
"We work on getting in the gap and trying to jump those passing lanes," Haws said.
Chase Hansen, a do-all-the-dirty-work type player, was assigned the task of guarding Northridge's leading scorer, Karson Casteel.
He certainly answered the calling. Hansen limited Casteel to two points on the night with only four looks at the hoop all while establishing position on the block.
"I just tried to keep him out of the paint the best I could — not just me, we had a lot of guys rotating on him," said Hansen after finishing with seven points and 11 boards with seven coming off the offensive glass. "We knew what type of threat he was and we had a good game plan."
"The kid's a warrior," Lewis added of Hansen.
The Knights from the south came out on a tangent, nose to the grindstone, determined to get to the cup in the second half. The mentality made all the difference.
Talon Shumway reached the free-throw line with 5:50 remaining in the third quarter. It was the first drawn shooting foul of the game. Lone Peak finished 7-for-7 from the charity stripe in the second half.
Behind Haws and Emery, the Knights extended the lead to double digits, 38-27, after three quarters.
With the game threatening to get out of hand after Shumway finished on another fast-break layup, Hansen, not known for his offensive ability, closed the book on Northridge.1 comment on this story
Lone Peak's Brody Berry crossed his defender at the top of the key but quickly found his path trapped, as a result he yo-yo'd across the baseline and skipped a one-bounce pass to Hansen — whom was all alone, nesting at the wing.
Hansen calmly twined the 3-pointer to give the Knights the 43-27 lead with 5:21 remaining in regulation.
"It was awesome — it doesn't happen often," Hansen said. "When I (have) an open shot Coach (Lewis) tells me not to hesitate. Luckily, it fell and I was glad I could give our team a boost."