We still have a chip on our shoulder from last year when they beat the crap out of us. And we weren't gonna let that happen again. We knew we had to come out and play our hardest. We knew we were talented enough to get the 'W' and we did. —Copper Hills junior guard Stockton Shorts
SALT LAKE CITY — Revenge in sports always tastes sweet, especially when it comes in postseason play.
And Copper Hills had been waiting over a year to taste it.
So the Grizzlies couldn't help but be roaring with ferocious delight and licking their chops after rolling past Lone Peak, 74-59, in Thursday's quarterfinal action of the 5A boys basketball state tournament at the Huntsman Center.
After all, it was a year ago when the tradition-rich Knights mauled the Grizzlies 99-74 in the state tourney's opening round.
That made Thursday's victory all the more savory. And Grizzlies coach Andrew Blanchard didn't deny that lopsided loss in last year's tournament provided plenty of extra momentum for his team this time around.
"Oh, we remembered that," he said. "We remembered when they were up 96-70 and still playing as hard as they can and running the score up. You damn right we remembered that."
Copper Hills junior guard Stockton Shorts agreed wholeheartedly.
"We still have a chip on our shoulder from last year when they beat the crap out of us," he said. "And we weren't gonna let that happen again. We knew we had to come out and play our hardest. We knew we were talented enough to get the 'W' and we did."
Senior guard Preston Sanchez led the way for the Grizzlies (21-3) with 25 points. He credited his team's defense as the key to the victory.
"It was team defense," he said. "It was a team defensive effort that we came out with tonight. We came out with positive energy and we believed in one another.
"My teammates really helped me today. They helped me get good screens, come off screens and get some good shots and good assists. Trevor (Hoffman) had good assists to me, Stockton had good assists to me."
"That's the Sanchez we had the first 10 games of our season," Blanchard said. "He got a little nicked up there with his ankle, and he just showed a lot of toughness tonight and team leadership and poise."
Senior swingman Charlie Olsen added 16 points and five rebounds for the Grizzlies, and senior center Porter Hawkins had 13 points and seven boards. Shorts contributed 11 points, pulled down 17 rebounds and swiped four steals as Copper Hills steamed into Friday's 5:50 p.m. semifinal game against Westlake.
"It's important that we have that team mentality where we've got five guys on the court that can play," Blanchard said. "And they can all score in different ways, and so sharing the ball was huge for us tonight. We trust in each other, and when you trust in each other as a team, impossible things can happen.
"He's been big in the state tournament," he said of Hawkins. "You look back at all his games, he's a double-double guy in a lot of those games. He was big for us tonight. He got in a little foul trouble, but he didn't let that discourage him. He was really tough.
"I thought we just scrambled and dove on loose balls and were energetic the whole night. And that's important if you're gonna be successful in the tournament," said Blanchard, whose team scored its last 21 points from the foul line over the final 6:10, going 21 of 28 from the stripe to deny the never-say-die Knights' comeback bid.
For Lone Peak, which finished its seaaon at 21-5, the incomparable Frank Jackson poured in 38 points. The 6-foot-4 senior guard, who'll play his college ball at Duke University, scored on an assortment of dazzling drives to the basket and mid-range shots, but went just 2 of 11 from the 3-point line.
And, as a team, the Knights were a dreadful 5 of 34 (14.7 percent) from beyond the arc and shot just 33.8 percent (22 of 65) overall from the field.
Nathan Harkness had eight points and five boards for Lone Peak, and Tyson Doman added six points with nine rebounds. But the Knights learned the hard way that one-on-five seldom, if ever, works in basketball — especially against a strong team like Copper Hills.
"I don't know what to think," Shorts said. "That's one of the best teams we've ever played, and (Jackson's) the best player I've ever played. Frank's just unbelievable.
"We played our hearts out. We got defensive stops when we needed ’em, we definitely made shots, and we made free throws down the stretch, and that's what really matters.
"We weren't playing our best, we'd been having our struggles with defense," he added. "But I feel like our defense is the best it's been in a long time. We held one of the best teams to not that many points; they had like 22 points at halftime (for a 33-22 lead), so for us that's huge. To hold that good of a team, it's crazy."
Yep, it's crazy all right — and it tastes awfully sweet, especially at this time of year.