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Gary Czenkus
West Jordan's Darrian Nebeker (34) works down in the low post at the Class 5A State basketball tournament Tuesday, March 1, 2016, at Weber State. Layton advances with a solid 54-38 win over West Jordan.

OGDEN — For whatever reason, Layton’s Julian Blackmon said he and his teammates just weren’t enjoying themselves that much in the first half of Tuesday’s 5A first-round game at the Dee Events Center.

Perhaps it was the anxiety of being the defending state champs, or just an off night, but the heavily-favored Lancers were up just three on West Jordan at halftime.

“Coach just said stay with the plan. This is a process, and we kind of weren’t enjoying it as much as we should have been … because not a lot of teams make it to the playoffs,” said Blackmon.

Layton came out with a more focused, care-free approach in the second half and quickly ran away from West Jordan for the 54-38 victory and a spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals at the University of Utah.

“Came out in the second half and ultimately just really focused on the defensive end. We talked a lot about that at halftime. Limiting their chances, being a little more solid on the defensive end,” said Layton coach Kelby Miller.

Leading 29-26 at the break, Layton’s defense limited West Jordan to just 2 of 8 shooting in the third quarter. The Jaguars didn’t really help themselves either by missing all five free-throw attempts in the quarter, falling behind 42-31.

West Jordan cut the lead to single digits with a 3-pointer to open the fourth, but Layton responded with a 6-0 run — all the points coming from the line — to effectively put the game away.

The Jaguars finished the game shooting just 26 percent, and only 16 percent in a second half in which it scored only 12 points. They were cold from the free-throw line too, making just 7 of 21.

“Anytime you can hold a team to 12 points in the second half that’s a pretty dang good job. That’s what I’m most pleased with,” said Miller.

Early on West Jordan shot well, with Jacob Lowery making a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter and Collin Larson adding another to give the Jaguars a 14-12 lead after the first quarter.

Layton took its first lead of the game at 20-19 on a lay-up by Blackmon, with 4:50 left in the half, and the Lancers never looked back.

Blackmon finished with 21 points to lead Layton, which is 12-1 since Blackmon returned to the team after suffering a broken wrist during football season.

“Right now everything is clicking the way it should be. We’ve got all the confidence in the world," said Miller, "and we should."

Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: jedward@deseretnews.com