SANDY — Heading into Friday's 5A play-in game against Copper Hills, West Jordan was riding an 18-year streak of making the state playoffs.
That streak now stands at 19 after the Jaguars picked up a hard-fought 63-54 win over the Grizzlies. The Jaguars used some inspired second-half play and a key early run in the third quarter to take the victory and earn themselves a game against 5A favorite Lone Peak on Monday.
“It was very important to me and the players to keep that streak of going to the playoffs going,” said West Jordan coach Scott Briggs. “This hasn’t been an easy year for us and we’ve had to battle through some things, but I’m so proud of how our guys stepped up and performed against a very good Copper Hills team.”
West Jordan took an early lead in the first half, but the Jaguar players were a bit discouraged after Copper Hills cut the lead to 28-27 at the half following a 3-point basket by Austin McCombs at the buzzer. The Jaguars, however, re-focused at halftime and got back to what they do best.
“I think our guys were disappointed with how they ended the half,” Briggs said. “We got away from a lot of the things that were working for us, but we got back to just playing the way we know we can play in the second half and things worked out.”
The Jaguars jumped all over the Grizzlies with a 13-2 run to start the third quarter and put themselves firmly in command. Forward Brent Beales led the charge with his inspired play at both ends. He finished with a game-high 21 points.
“Brent isn’t always a big scorer for us, but we can always count on him to be a warrior for us,” Briggs said. “He’s blue-collar player — our type of player — that just gives it his all every night. And he was big for us in this game.”
The Grizzlies had no quit in them, however, and whittled West Jordan’s lead to just five points with a little over two minutes remaining. But that’s as close as they would get. Key foul shooting and ball control by the Jaguars proved too much to overcome.
“You have to give Copper Hills credit for how they competed until the end. My hat’s off to them for how they played and they sure didn’t make it easy,” Briggs said.
The Grizzlies were led by Preston Sanchez and Darius Maluia, who scored 19 and 13 points, respectively.
As mentioned, West Jordan now faces the gargantuan task of taking on defending 5A champion and nationally ranked Lone Peak in the first round of the playoffs.
“Oh, we know all about Lone Peak and everybody keeps reminding me of that game, but we’re going to try and enjoy this one,” Briggs said. “We’ll obviously have our work cut out for us in the first round, but the important thing right now is that we got there and I’m very proud that we were able to win tonight.”
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