Prep boys basketball: Defending 5A champ Layton slips past Sky View in a 70-69 thriller
SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes right down to it and that buzzer blares for the last time, high school basketball just doesn't get much better than this.
Terrific intensity? Check. Great drama? Check. Superb performances by members of both teams? Check. Clutch plays, one after another after another? Check, check and check.
This, indeed, was a dandy.
Layton High senior point guard Julian Blackmon scored 27 points, capped by a go-ahead, dipsy-doodle layup with 5 seconds left, and the defending state champion Lancers kept their quest alive for a repeat title with a dramatic 70-69 victory over Sky View in a tremendous quarterfinal clash Thursday at the Huntsman Center.
"That was exactly how coach (Kelby Miller) drew it up," said Blackmon, who admitted that it "was kinda scary" when his decisive shot bounced a couple times off the rim before falling through the net. "But I'm just glad it went in.
"Coach called a good play and he just said 'Julian, attack!' and that's what I did and I was fortunate enough to make the shot."
"We had the right guy shooting it," Miller, whose gritty team will battle Bingham in tonight's tourney semifinals at 7:30 p.m. in the Huntsman Center, said of Blackmon. "Anytime he does what he does, I've got all the confidence in the world in him. You know, he's pretty good; he's pretty good."
But even after Blackmon's tough, twisting shot went down, it wasn't over yet. The Bobcats still had 4.1 seconds left on the clock to go the length of the court and try to get up a game-winning basket or free throws of their own.
Sky View got the ball in the hands of its own stellar senior guard, Jake Hendricks, who flew down-court and, with Blackmon in his face, put up a last-gasp shot from the right angle just before the final buzzer sounded.
But Hendricks' shot came up barely short, bouncing off the rim as time expired to give the Region 2 champion Lancers (16-8) their 12th straight win, soaring into tonight's semis while sending the devastated Bobcats (15-9) headed home to Cache Valley.
"You know where the ball's going; it's going to Hendricks in that situation," Miller said. "The main thing was hey, just be solid on defense, and we reiterated the fact that we don't want to foul a jump shooter there at the end.
"It wasn't a secret. We knew where the ball was going, they drew it up that way, and we were just fortunate enough to contest that shot enough that it didn't fall.
"He's a good player and it wasn't a bad look, but Julian contested it enough," the Lancers' coach said. "I've been around long enough to look at trajectory of a ball and know that that was gonna come up short, so that felt kinda good."
Blackmon, the athletic 6-foot-3 playmaker who's headed for the University of Utah next year to play defensive back for the Utes' football team, made 9 of 21 shots and also had seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.
His two free throws with 24 seconds left had given Layton a 68-67 lead, only to see Hendricks' determined drive put Sky View on top 69-68 with 15 seconds to go, setting the stage for the last-gasp drama.
"When I hit the (go-ahead) shot, I was like, 'OK, defense. Come on, boys, we want this. How bad do we want it?'" Blackmon said. "And it just proved it in the last four seconds that we wanted it more.
"I said, 'Coach, let me guard him, let me guard him' because I know I can do something. And I just focused and we had good defensive position at the end."
Hustling senior guard Dallin Watts added 20 points for Layton, hitting three first-quarter 3-pointers and a couple of key driving layups in the fourth quarter, one of them off a steal and a subsequent 3-point play, to help give his team a chance to win.
"I just did what I know how to do," Watts said. "I just waited for open looks and when they came, I took ’em. And when they threw a pass I felt like I could get to and go get a layup or something, I just did what I know how to do. And it just kind of lined up for me today for things to go my way.
"Dallin, I thought, played an amazing game obviously," Miller said. "The stats don't lie. He had a great shooting game, really stepped up when we needed him to, you know. Jacoby (Kemp) is one of our main guys and got into foul trouble all night long, so we needed somebody else and (Watts) did it when he needed to."
"The way that Dallin played, hitting those big, big-time free throws and big-time 3s, I was just proud to play by his side," Blackmon said. "There's just a lot of different players that can do a lot of different things on our team, and I'm just proud that Dallin was there to help me out and the team got a win."
Senior forward Chandler Obray contributed 14 points and 14 rebounds for Layton, and he hit a pair of clutch free throws to give Layton a 66-63 lead with 50.5 seconds left.
"Chandler is kind of one of those unsung heroes of this team," Miller said. "I mean, he does an amazing job rebounding the ball for us, one of those lunch-pail guys who always comes to work hard.
"Offensively, he has a little bit better game, I think, than people give him credit for. He's really worked hard to be able to shoot that 15-footer and, again, he's always on the boards for us."
For Sky View, senior forward Bryce Mortenson had a team-leading 19 points and five rebounds, scoring seven of his points in the last six and a half minutes, while Hendricks finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Breygan Holbrook scored a dozen points for the Bobcats, eight of them coming in the last six-plus minutes. His 3-pointer put Sky View ahead 56-55 with 6:05 to go, and he hit another 3 to pull the ’Cats within 64-63 with 55.6 seconds left. His driving layup put the Cache Valley crew ahead 67-66 with 26.3 seconds remaining, but there was plenty of time left for the late-game heroics of Blackmon, Hendricks and Blackmon once more.
"That was a fun game, man," Watts said. "This environment is the best; it's what we live for, and it's just awesome to be out there with all the guys that I've been playing with my whole life. And having those experiences on this floor, it's just the best I could ever ask for."