OREM — A lot of teams show jitters early on during first-round state tournament games given the gravity of every game. A lot of those same teams eventually settle in while others never really do.
As for Copper Hills, those first-round jitters were nowhere to be found during its 61-43 win over Syracuse on Tuesday.
The Grizzlies locked down from the start, getting out to a big 15-3 lead after one quarter and then slowly building that lead until the final buzzer.
“We’ve got guys who have been in this situation before,” said Copper Hills coach Andrew Blanchard. “It’s kind of on (the players') own accord and we have leaders on this team that are prepared to play these games.”
Copper Hills' roster is senior-laden with most of those seniors having played significant roles on the team for four straight years. Those same seniors set the tone early in Tuesday's win, knowing full well what it takes to advance in the 5A state tournament.
What those seniors know works for their team is fierce and consistent defensive pressure.
“We have several good seniors and a junior that plays a lot of minutes for us, but we play really well (and) balanced on the defensive end,” Blanchard said. “We had a lot of good rebounds and run-outs, but we need to get a little bit better on the offensive end.”
Copper Hills was typically balanced on the offensive end in the win. Stockton Shorts and Charlie Olsen led the way with 15 points each while Porter Hawkins and Preston Sanchez each contributed eight.
“Anyone could be the leading scorer in any game,” Shorts said. “We don’t worry if we’re not getting ours. Someone will pick us up. If we’re not making the shot we pass the ball and someone will make it for us. That’s the mentality.”
“There’s no one player or two players, it’s everyone,” Sanchez added of the Grizzlies' approach. “We need everyone to get the job done.”
Although Copper Hills managed a big early lead after one quarter, it did well in forgetting about it. The focus then turned exclusively to the second, third and fourth quarters, according to Blanchard.
“We try to win each quarter,” Blanchard said. “So when we win the first quarter we forget about that quarter and go win the second.”Comment on this story
The Grizzlies were outscored 11-10 in the second quarter but then proceeded to win the third and fourth quarters, outscoring the Titans 20-16 in the third and 16-13 in the fourth.
Syracuse was led by guard Andrew Carlson and Kalvin Mudrow, who scored 14 and 13 points, respectively.
With the win Copper Hills advances to play Lone Peak in the quarterfinals, a matchup which should prove very competitive given both team's résumés. That game will tip off Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.