LAYTON — Like they always say, it's tough to keep a good man down.
And the same holds true for a good team, too.
So when Weber High, struggling through an uncharacteristic two-game losing spell, fell behind by seven points at halftime of Friday's Region 1 boys basketball game against Northridge, the Warriors didn't panic.
Instead, led by 6-foot-3 senior guard Hayden Schenck and 6-4 senior forward Garrett Beckey, Weber came out playing much more desperate, determined and defensive-minded and outscored Northridge 40-19 in the second half to knock off the Knights 59-45 at the 'Ridge.
"They all count the same, but that's the biggest win of our season — no question," said Weber coach Mark Larsen. "Syracuse is a good team and they got us last week, and we knew if we wanted to stay right there and keep giving ourselves a chance (in the region race), we had to come in here (and win) tonight.
"And we were fortunate enough and we guarded well enough tonight that we were able to pull it out. Northridge is a great team, so to come here and get one is extremely difficult."
Weber, which started the season 12-1 before falling on some hard times, improved to 13-3 overall and 2-2 in Region 1.
"That win was huge for us," Schenck said. "We talked as a team and that was one we had to get for region for the rest of the time. Everyone came together at halftime and we played a heckuva second half, played hard on the defensive end, and it worked out for us."
Schenck, 5A's leading scorer with an average hovering around 27 points per game, had just nine points by halftime, and Northridge's Preston Christensen poured in 17 first-half points to help give the Knights a 26-19 cushion at intermission.
But Schenck came out with guns blazing in the second half, scoring 19 of his game-high 28 points, and Beckey contributed 12 second-half points of his own as the Warriors caught and passed the Knights with an 18-5 flurry in the third quarter.
"Coach (Larsen) had a great halftime speech," said Schenck, who was 11 of 12 from the foul line, including 8 of 9 in the fourth quarter alone. "He told us the game's gonna be won on the defensive end. He said we were playing our hearts out on defense, but we needed to talk more and pick up on Christensen; he had 17 at half.
"So we came out, Garrett did a great job on Christensen — he was up in him — and Christensen didn't play great but he got in foul trouble. So it ended up working out good and everyone came out with momentum and playing hard."
After seizing the momentum in the third period, Weber kept the pedal to the floor in the fourth quarter, outscoring Northridge 22-14 thanks in part to some superb 10-of-12 foul shooting to pull away.
Beckey, whose bun head hairdo resembles that of Chicago Bulls' big man Joakim Noah, said the Warriors fully realized the importance of Friday's game.
And, after a tentative opening half, he felt that he and his teammates finally played with much more of a sense of urgency after halftime.
"We were passive in the first half," he said. "We were waiting and watching to see what they were gonna do and not reacting to it.
"Not only for our record, but I felt like for our confidence, we needed (the win), too. I felt like if we lost this, some of them probably would've hit the panic button just a little bit. But I felt like this win was for all of our confidence, so I thought that was a good win for us."
His coach certainly gave Beckey plenty of credit for Weber's second-half turnaround.
"Beckey was great in the second half," Larsen said. "He was a little timid offensively in the first half; they weren't really guarding him and he wasn't sure. And we just told him, 'Garrett, if you would shoot that shot in practice, shoot it in the game.' So he didn't just settle for jumpers; he started doing the things he does in practice — being active, getting putbacks, getting touches, getting rebounds and sprinting, and giving us transition opportunities.
"Garrett was great tonight; we challenged him. We challenged Garrett. And he's the type of athlete who's gonna respond. I know he is. He'll give Weber High everything he's got. He played his heart out. He always does."
Jordan Jones, Auston Tesch and Jaren McKnight also made key contributions in the victory for the Warriors, who shot a slick 19 of 21 from the foul line on the night.
For Northridge, Christensen wound up with 19 points, but only had two in the second half before fouling out with 4:40 still remaining. Jesse Armistead hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter on his way to nine points and Davy Adams added eight points for the Knights (10-6, 3-1 Region 1), who saw their three-game league winning streak snapped.
Coach Larsen didn't want to fully divulge what he told his team at halftime, but it apparently got their attention.
"We'll keep that a secret," Larsen said of his halftime pep talk. "We'll keep that a secret. It wasn't heated; you're not going to yell at the kids because they were playing their guts out.
"We wanted them to be confident offensively but not in a hurry. We knew we didn't have to score off the first pass or the first dribble. We wanted to reverse the floor a couple of times, wear (the Knights) out a little bit, and maybe we'd get some open looks. I believe we were really good field goal percentage-wise inside the 3-point line in the second half.
"But the difference was defensively," Larsen said. "We knew they've got three guys that can score and we had to stop two of them. ... The kids made a commitment to guarding, and we're gonna take pride in our defense. We know that if can stop teams, we're good enough in transition and athletic enough we'll get enough baskets, and it worked tonight."
The Warriors' coach said that his assistant coaches convinced him to make a key defensive adjustment in the second half, and the strategy made a huge difference in helping the Warriors turn things around.
"I've got to give credit to my assistants, Mark Hansen and Cody Lafeber," Larsen said. "They talked me into a defensive switch at halftime and that paid huge dividends in the second half. I've got to give them credit, because I was a little hesitant about it and they wanted me to trust them and I did. And it was a huge difference maker.
"... We were playing more help defense in the paint, and Jordan Jones altered a lot of their shots in the third quarter. With that, we were able to get up and down the floor, hit some layups and got to the foul line.
"Those two talked me into it," Larsen admitted. "... They saw some things and we ran with it and it really worked in our favor. I've got guys I know I can trust, and those guys are great."
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