Don't try to convince Orem guard Shawn Opunui that his team's 65-61 win over Layton in Wednesday's 5A semifinals was an upset.
Sure, the Lancers did have the No. 1 ranking, a better record, more height and a deeper bench. But according to Opunui, the real upset would have been if Orem hadn't won."We thought we could exploit them. We're a more talented team," Opunui said. "We are mentally stronger and we're just an all-around better team."
Unfortunately for Layton, Opunui has as much game as he does confidence. The junior used his quickness to score a game-high 26 points, including 15-for-19 from the free-throw line.
Orem (17-6) will face crosstown rival Mountain View Saturday night at 8:30 in the Huntsman Center for the 5A championship.
"It feels awesome," said Orem's Spencer Abney. "We're going to the big show."
If the Tigers proved anything Wednesday, it's that bigger isn't always better.
Abney, Orem's undersized 6-foot-5 center, struggled against the taller Lancers while going scoreless in the first quarter. He had a hard time getting any good looks over Layton big guys Matt Mark (6-7) and Curtis Andrews (6-6).
"But after that, he just took them apart," said Orem coach Matt Logan.
Using his agility and brute force, the muscular Abney ended up with 21 points and six rebounds.
BYU football coach LaVell Edwards can only hope his future tight end will punish opposing defenses as Abney did Layton down the stretch. He powered through the Lancers for 10 points in the final three minutes. His steal, left-handed layup and free throw at 2:23 capped a 12-3 Orem run, giving the Tigers a 57-54 lead after Layton had gone up 51-45 only two minutes earlier.
"I don't know if there's a better low-post player," Logan said of his MVP-candidate who was a first-team Deseret News all-state football player. "For 6-foot-5, we sure do get a lot of mileage out of that guy."
Layton (19-4) used its height to its advantage in the early going. Mark had three blocks and Andrews scored two inside baskets in helping the Lancers get off to an 11-4 start.
Orem backup guard Bill Mc-Cleary hit a couple of 3-pointers at the end of the quarter to help the Tigers take a 16-11 lead after a 12-point spurt. The rest of the quarter was full of streaks for each side. Orem went on a 9-0 run to up its lead to 11 points, before Layton scored the final six points to give the Tigers a 33-28 lead.
Opunui also nearly streaked in the second quarter. The tie-string in his game pants busted, forcing him to leave the game while holding on to his oversized shorts so they wouldn't drop to his ankles. He missed a couple of plays as he switched pants with a teammate in the tunnel area.
It's probably a good thing he did that, or his two-handed breakaway jam in the third quarter might have showed more than just his incredible leaping skills.
Opunui's second dunk of the season came moments after Logan had been slapped with a technical foul that led to the Lancers tying the game at 36-all.
Layton coach Scott Applegate could only wonder what would have happened had his team shot better than 34 percent (17 for 50). The Lancers were even missing open layups on occasion.
"We had some opportunities. The kids were trying," he said. "I'm disappointed. They're disappointed. It just so happens that we missed some shots."
Chet Neilson topped the Lancers in scoring with 23 points, but he could have used some more production from his taller teammates.
Mark, who was the team's leading scorer this season. finished with 11 points on four-of-12 shooting. He scored just 22 points in Layton's three playoff games. Andrews hauled in 12 rebounds, but scored just six points and was two-for-10 from the field.
The Lancers will play for third place on Saturday against Brighton.
MOUNTAIN VIEW 75, BRIGHTON 61: On what was one of Scott Henry's worst personal outings of his high school career, the Mountain View center showed his frustration by smacking a chair after he was pulled in the third quarter of Wednesday night's 5A semifinal game.
Henry, who had been the Bruins' hero in their quarterfinal win over Davis, shortly re-entered the game, but it wasn't long into the fourth quarter before he found his way back to the bench with five fouls and only three points.
Good thing for the Bruins he's not the only Henry on the team.
Tim Henry, a junior, took over where his older brother left off in the quarterfinals. He scored a game-high 30 points to lead the Bruins past Brighton, 75-61, and into the 5A championship game.
The win set up an all-Orem final between Mountain View and the Orem Tigers, who beat top-ranked Layton 65-61. The 5A final between the Region 3 co-champs is Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.
"We won this without Scott Henry," said Mountain View coach Rob Cuff. "The team philosophy is so important in this game and especially on the high school level.. . . I just don't preach the star philosophy, because when your star's done, you're done."
The fraternal star system seems to be working rather well for the Bruins, who improved to 17-6. Scott Henry had 29 points against Davis, before handing the baton over to Tim.
"It's kinda been happening that way," said Cuff. "Scott will have 30 one night and Tim will get 22-24 the next game."
Tim scored 13 of his points from the foul line on 14 attempts. The Bruins were 30-for-42 from the charity stripe.
"Every time we turned it was a foul," said Brighton coach Jim Jimas, whose team went to the line 22 times. "You can't foul these guys; they make 'em. That's the difference in the game."
Cuff also thought the Bruins' defense played a big part, and especially in the third quarter when Mountain View switched between man-to-man and a zone. That helped the Bruins take their lead from a seven-point halftime edge - thanks to a Tim's 30-foot buzzer-beating trey - to a double-digit advantage.
"We confused them long enough to build a 10-point lead," said Cuff.
The cold-shooting and foul-proned Bengals could only get within eight points in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't shoot very well from the perimeter," said Jimas, whose team shot 39 percent from the field and 59 percent from the free-throw line. "It's hard to catch up if you keep fouling. We weren't allowed to play defense."
Mountain View guard Jeff Gardner had the hot-hand in the first half. He drilled a pair of 3-pointers to help the Bruins jump out to a 10-2 lead. The junior scored 11 of his 18 points in the opening half.
Sophomores Garner Meads and Jesse Pinegar led the Bengals (12-11) in scoring with 17 and 15. Brighton plays Layton Saturday for third place.
WEST JORDAN 60, SKYLINE 57: Cheyenne Rushton scored 28 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line to lead the Jaguars to the victory. West Jordan and Davis will vie for fifth place on Saturday.
DAVIS 71, TIMPANOGOS 63: Judd Lyon tickled the twine for 38 points, including five 3-pointers on five tries. Brad Barton added 13 points in the win for the Darts, who trailed by eight at the half.
CLASS 5A BOYS
Saturday at the Huntsman Center
Orem (17-6) vs. Mtn. View (17-6), 8:30 p.m.
Third-fourth place game
Layton (19-4) vs. Brighton (12-11), 3 p.m.
Fifth-sixth place game
West Jordan (14-9) vs. Davis (15-7), 1:20 p.m.
CLASS 4A BOYS
Thursday at the Huntsman Center
Olympus (21-1) vs. Provo (20-2), 6:30 p.m.
Mtn. Crest (18-4) vs. Bountiful (14-8), 8:10 p.m.
Weber (15-7) vs. Sky View (18-4), 2:30 p.m.
American Fork (12-9) vs. Timpview (16-6), 4:10 p.m.
CLASS 2A BOYS
Friday's first-round games
S. Sevier (6-15) at Grantsville (20-1), 7 p.m.
Manti (10-11) at Beaver (16-5), 7 p.m.
Millard (11-9) at Juab (13-8), 7 p.m.
N. Sevier (14-6) vs. S. Summit (12-9) at Payson, 7 p.m.
Altamont (7-13) vs. Gunnison (16-5) at Wasatch, 7 p.m.
Saturday's first-round games
Kanab (13-8) at Duchesne (10-10), 7 p.m.
Grand (7-13) at Enterprise (12-9), 7 p.m.
North Summit (6-15) at San Juan (13-7), 7 p.m.
CLASS 1A BOYS
At SUU's Centrum
Wayne (13-9) vs. Milford (13-9), 4:30 p.m.
Rich (15-7) vs. Dugway (20-2), 6 p.m.
Piute (12-10) vs. Tabiona (21-1), 7:30 p.m.
Wendover (14-8) vs. Panguitch (21-1), 9 p.m.
Waterford (14-7) vs. Bryce Valley, 10 a.m.
Valley (13-9) vs. Meridian (8-9), 11:30 a.m.
Green River (17-5) vs. S.L. Lutheran (11-11), 1 p.m.
Manila (5-17) vs. ICS (12-10), 2:30 p.m.
CLASS 2A GIRLS
Thursday's first-round game
Millard (10-10) at Grantsville (13-8), 7 p.m.
Friday's first-round games
Altamont (10-9) vs. S. Summit (12-9) at Wasatch, 5:30 p.m.
S. Sevier (4-17) at Juab (20-1), 5:30 p.m.
N. Summit (5-16) at Beaver (16-4), 8 p.m.
Saturday's first-round games
N. Sevier (13-8) at Monticello (8-8), 7 p.m.
Duchesne (8-11) at Enterprise (13-7), 7 p.m.
Rowland Hall (10-11) vs. Parowan (13-8) at Juab, 7 p.m.
Manti (8-11) at San Juan (12-9), 7 p.m.