SALT LAKE CITY — West Jordan coach Scott Briggs was very curious to see how his team would respond Friday night.
The Jaguars went into the holiday break on a five-game winning streak, but back-to-back losses to Highland and Westlake at the Utah Autism Foundation Holiday Classic at Olympus High School had soured a good chunk of that momentum.
Briggs said it looked like his team was playing in mud against Highland and Westlake.
“We just felt we weren’t playing real well. We felt we were doing a bunch of things that we weren’t doing heading into the break,” said Briggs.
Against Judge Friday night, West Jordan rediscovered what was working so well during its earlier win streak. Brent Beales scored 24 points and the Jaguars hit some big shots down the stretch to withstand a late Judge rally on their way to the 59-53 victory.
“We were a little more excited to be here (today),” said Briggs. “It’s an early-January preseason game that doesn’t really mean that much, but it does to us after what we’ve come off of.”
West Jordan never trailed after taking a lead early in the second quarter, but Judge didn’t go away quietly either. After falling behind 36-26 midway through the third, the resilient Bulldogs used an 11-3 run to whittle the deficit to 39-37 with six minutes left in the game.
Over the next minute, though, Judge turned it over three straight possessions and West Jordan’s Jadon Schwartz and Dallas Winberg hit back-to-back 3-pointers to stretch the lead to 45-37 with 5:24 remaining.
“I was glad to see they were confident enough to take those shots because a lot of high school kids get real nervous when the other teams are making that push,” said Briggs.
Judge cut the lead to four twice during the final three minutes, but West Jordan protected the basketball and hit free throws down the stretch to finish off the much-needed victory.
Tanner Riley finished with 21 points to lead Judge, which played the entire second half without second-leading scorer Ryan Pauley, who sat on the sideline with ice wrapped around his ankle.
With as calm and poised as Beales played, Pauley’s presence might not have mattered. After being plagued by foul trouble the previous two games, the senior center stayed out of foul trouble to lead the Jaguars.
“We need Brent on the floor to be successful. The thing that was nice about Brent, he was still super aggressive tonight, but managed to stay on the floor,” said Briggs.
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