TAYLORSVILLE — It might not have been its prettiest offensive performance, but top-seeded Layton definitely made its presence felt on the defensive end Thursday afternoon.
The undefeated Lancers locked down on defense, forced a plethora of turnovers — for a 30-0 edge over Pleasant Grove in points off turnovers — crashed the boards and secured nearly every loose ball to cruise to a hard-fought 54-37 quarterfinal win at Salt Lake Community College.
“Our press really helped our game a lot. I think that’s one of the strongest parts of our game. We just came together as a team and played our game, and it really motivated us to get the win,” Layton star guard Hailey Bassett said.
The Vikings jumped out to an early 10-2 lead midway through the first quarter to put the home team on its heels.
However, you can only contain Layton for so long and their lead was very short lived.
The Lancers, led by Bassett, forward Livia Borges and guard Sunnie Martinez, began executing their tremendous full-court press and crashed the boards hard as they responded with a commanding 28-7 run to take a 30-17 halftime lead with all of pthe momentum.
“That’s our thing — we get four people to get offensive boards and one person to watch fast breaks. We’re a pretty fast team so we want to get back, but we also want to get the putbacks,” said Borges. “We normally have height, which we didn’t have today, but we needed to get putbacks to get momentum going. Our defense really fuels our offense.”
Does it ever.
The home team's run carried over into the third quarter as they continued to swarm the Vikings' offense, pushed the tempo and crashed the boards on both ends to extend their comfortable lead.
Bassett and Borges, who both finished with a game-high 15 points, established an early offensive rhythm while Martinez also came up big with 13 points to add to their lead late in the third. The trio overwhelmed Pleasant Grove and combined for 15 rebounds, eight assists and eight steals while Clara Wood also contributed six of their 19 total steals.
“That (pressure) is huge when you’re playing 6’-7”, 6’-5” and 6-foot girls. That was the big thing for us: positioning, being physical, bodying them up and making sure we go after everything,” Layton coach Van Price said. “It really helps when we’re pressuring their guards and they’re struggling to see their bigs inside. We wanted to do that all along.”
Facing its biggest hole of the game (24 points) with just seven minutes remaining, Pleasant Grove hung in and strung together its best quarter of the game on both sides to cut into its massive deficit.
However, it was far too little too late for the Vikings as Layton ran out the clock to clinch the double-digit victory and advance to the 5A semifinals.
The Lancers are now set to take on top-seeded Copper Hills in a battle of the unbeaten Friday night at 7:30 pm at Salt Lake Community College.
“Well, Copper Hills — it’s kind of a dream,” Price said. “Two 23-0 teams meeting each other and seeing who makes the finals. So it’s going to be fun and a big challenge — they’re a really good team.”
Ryan Love is a full-time student and has been a part-time sportswriter for Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724