OGDEN — Someone needed to salvage the pride of Region 1 boys basketball in Tuesday's opening round of the 5A state tournament.
And that someone wound up being the Bobcats of Sky View High.
Senior guard Jake Hendricks had a game-high 20 points, including a momentum-changing 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer, and Sky View — which watched Region 1 champion Weber go down to a disappointing defeat earlier in the day — made sure it didn't suffer the same frustrating fate as the Bobcats beat Pleasant Grove 63-49 at Weber State University's Dee Events Center.
Senior forward Bryce Mortenson added 15 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots for Sky View while Max Christensen, Alex McRae and Breygan Holbrook each also played vital roles in the victory that sends the Bobcats (15-8) into Thursday's 5A tourney quarterfinals with the sixth win in their last seven games.
Region 1 runner-up Sky View — the league's only remaining tourney entrant after Mountain Crest and Fremont also lost to Region 4 foes Tuesday — will face defending 5A state champion Layton, which beat West Jordan 54-38 on Thursday at 4:10 p.m. at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center.
"We definitely addressed it, our first-place team in our region coming down here (and falling to Westlake, the fourth-place team from Region 4, 70-51)," Sky View coach Kirk Hillyard said. "... You bet we did; we talked about it.
"I knew it was going to be a dogfight. ... I told the kids it was a four-point game at half and a couple things didn't go (Pleasant Grove's) way right at the start of the third quarter, and it blew the game wide open.
"I addressed them at halftime how important it is to start the third quarter strong, and I think we did that," he said. "I think the kids didn't look back after that."
The Vikings led 11-8 after a slow-paced opening period, and Brody Childs scored all seven of his points in a 9-0 run that put Pleasant Grove up by nine, 26-17, late in the second quarter.
But Mortenson scored on a shot in the lane to cut Sky View's deficit to seven, and then Hendricks hit a clutch 3 just before the halftime buzzer sounded to bring the Bobcats back within four, 26-22, at intermission.
"I don't think it was necessarily the (3-point) shot, I think it was the defense we played for (the last) 45 seconds (of the first half)," said Hendricks, who also had five rebounds and three assists. "We gutted it up on defense and stopped 'em for those 45 seconds, and we got a steal because of our defense and you could feel the momentum change in the game."
"It took us from seven (points down) to four," Hillyard said of Hendricks' huge 3. "Just the momentum and the psyche of the kids to only be down four and not playing our best game, but to only be down four was huge going into halftime. And you always like to finish quarters strong; we talked about that at halftime as well."
Hendricks hit another 3 to start the third quarter, and with Mortenson's steady scoring leading the way, the Bobcats roared ahead 38-32 by the end of the period.
A conventional three-point play by Hendricks gave Sky View its first double-digit lead, 50-40, with four minutes to go, and a steady free-throw parade produced the Bobcats' last 11 points as they pulled away to send Pleasant Grove (16-7) packing.
"I had a good feeling about this (game) in practice every day this week," said Hendricks. "... We have a lot of energy, and I think we have a good feeling out there. We try not to listen (to the Region 1 doubters), we just go out and play our game to the best of our abilities.
"Our defense and Alex McRae was the key to it. He didn't start the game, but he started the second half and he got in (Braden Wellman's) face and he stayed in front of him and forced him to his left. They couldn't run off anything; he played great and was the key to our defense for sure."
McRae had eight points, three steals and three rebounds, while Christensen contributed nine points, four boards and three steals of his own. Holbrook added six points and three rebounds for the 'Cats from Cache Valley.
For Pleasant Grove, Braxton Leetham hit three 3-pointers on his way to a team-leading 12 points, while David Peterson added nine points. Casey Brown contributed eight, and Childs and Matt McCarty chipped in with seven points apiece for the Vikings.
"The first quarter, I was a little bit concerned," Hillyard said. "We had a hard time defending their outside shooters and we had to go man. And I thought we had some kids step up and do some really good things defensively the second, third and fourth quarter.
"Alex McRae was a game-changer on defense; he kept Wellman sighted, which was what we talked about because he runs their offense when it comes to man-to-man. So when we kept him sighted, it made it easier for him to take part of their offense away and so props to him on that.
"We're playing a lot better, we're playing with confidence right now," the Bobcats' coach continued. "We've had some games where we've scored a lot of points against some good teams. We didn't win the Weber game in overtime, but still we played really well. So we're coming into the tournament with a little bit of momentum."
And while Coach Hillyard's team wound up being the sole survivor from Region 1, he stood up for the quality of play in his league.Comment on this story
"There's a lot of people that predicted Region 3 and 4 to go 7-1 today, so maybe we were the 1 today, I don't know," he said. "... I think our region's got some real good ballplayers.
"Weber had a night where they didn't shoot it. I wish they'd had a night like that a week ago against us, but I feel bad for them. But, you know, this is a fun time of the year for the kids and I'm glad that we're playing good ball right now.
"You've got to come ready to play," Hillyard said. "It's the state tournament — anything can happen. It's just like the NCAA tournament — anything can happen in the first round — so you've gotta come ready to play. I did stress, and we talked about it all week, that rebounding is key in the first round. You've got to go rebound the ball, and I thought we rebounded a lot better the second half. We didn't give them many second-chance points."