SALT LAKE CITY — During his second-period class Monday, Olympus senior Connor Haller got the text he’d been dreading all weekend — teammate Jake Lindsey’s hand was indeed broken.
The injury occurred in practice last Friday, but Olympus was hopeful it was only a sprain. An X-ray Monday confirmed otherwise, though, and poof, just like that the Titans no longer seemed like state title contenders.
Not so fast.
Losing its second-leading scorer and most dynamic player was just another layer of adversity for Olympus, which rallied around the hardship with an impressive 71-50 victory over Sky View in the opening round of the 4A state tournament at the Huntsman Center Monday.
“So proud of my kids. It’s the beauty of team. I talk about the beauty of team all the time,” said Olympus coach Matt Barnes. “We always talk about guys being ready and taking advantage of your opportunity.”
With Lindsey and his 18.5 ppg in a cast on Olympus’ bench, it was easy to wonder where the points would come from besides leading scorer Alec Monson.
Coach Matt Barnes simply put faith in the rest of his players and let them play.
“We made no adjustments. Jake creates a dynamic that no one can fill his shoes. He’s so good with the dribble, so good at getting to the basket and finishing. We had to play our game,” said Barnes. “I told my guys, 'You don’t have to do anything special. You just have to be who you are and play your game and we’ll play our team game.'”
It took the Titans a little bit to get going, falling behind by seven in the first quarter, but everything started to come together in the second half.
Leading 30-27 at halftime, Olympus increased the lead to 46-35 after the third quarter and stretched it to as many as 23 in the fourth.
“Our defense really locked down and did a nice job rebounding and we finally established a rhythm shooting in the second half,” said Monson.
Not surprisingly, Monson got his points — finishing with 29 courtesy of four 3-pointers and 13 of 14 free-throw shooting — but the contributions of his teammates are why Olympus is still alive in the playoffs.
Haller and Spencer Williams picked up the scoring slack without Lindsey by finishing with 12 points each. They combined to add 11 rebounds, which helped the Titans dominate the glass 41-30.
With 3:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, Sky View forced Olympus into two quick lazy turnovers to cut the lead to 53-45 to keep things interesting. The defending champion Bobcats quickly called a timeout, which actually helped Barnes refocus his team.Comment on this story
“Fellas, we’re not trying to stall. We’re trying to score. We’ve got to move. We’ve got to handle the trap. You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be aggressive and score,” said Barnes.
The Titans proceeded to score 16 straight points over the next three minutes to finish things off. They now turn their attention to Wednesday’s quarterfinals, where they will take on Highland at 4:10 p.m.
“We obviously miss Jake a ton, but we’re good enough to hopefully make a run at this thing,” said Barnes.