WEST JORDAN In the last couple of years, West Jordan has played third fiddle to Bingham and Riverton in Region 3, primarily because it's struggled to win the close ones its biggest rivals.
The Jaguars took a big step toward remedying that trend Friday night.
In a tight game throughout, including five lead changes and four ties in the second half, West Jordan made just enough free throws down the stretch for a 54-52 victory over Riverton.
"Last year were weren't able to pull these ones out, but I think confidence wise I think it was big for them to bust through and get one of these big games against those teams," said West Jordan coach Scott Briggs, whose team was 1-7 against Riverton and Bingham the past two years.
Riverton had a good chance to tie the game following a pair of West Jordan missed free throws with 10.6 seconds remaining, but Cory Cardwell's jumper in the lane bounced off the rim and Scott Friel's frantic putback attempt never got above the rim as the buzzer sounded.
The fifth-ranked Jaguars improved to 3-0 in the region with the win, further magnifying next week's game with Bingham, which is also 3-0 in league play.
"There's still a long way to go, it's only one out of 10, but it's also a good one for us," said Briggs.
Jordan Weirick led the way for the Jaguars with 23 points, but he was extremely down on himself after the game having missed the two free throws that opened the door for a potential Riverton game-winning shot.
"I'm always shocked at how many points he gets," said Briggs. "I don't think he's a great shooter, I don't think he's a great post player, but he's a great scorer."
Even though Weirick missed his free throws, his teammates picked him up in the final two minutes with a clutch 3-pointer, a critical offensive rebound and four free throws.
Trailing 45-41 with six minutes remaining in the game, the visiting Silverwolves went on a 7-2 run to go ahead 48-47 with 3:12 remaining. Tanner Connors responded with a 3-pointer as West Jordan went ahead for good at 50-48 with 2:32 remaining.
Two Connors free throws upped the lead to 52-48 in the final minute, but Riverton answered back on with a Friel lay-up with 24 ticks left. The Silverwolves were given a glimmer of hope a few seconds later when West Jordan's Reyes Gallegos missed the front end of a one-and-one, but teammate Tyson Udy came down with a huge offensive rebound and calmly knocked down his free throws upon getting fouled.
"Without that rebound who knows how the game develops," said Briggs.
Despite the offensive rebound, a Cardwell jumper trimmed West Jordan's lead to 54-52 a few seconds later, but his game-tying shot rimmed away.Riverton, which had three players score in double figures led by Friel's 15, jumped out to a 14-5 lead midway through the first quarter and led 25-24 at the half.