We got a confidence booster and it's a lot more energized being here. I don't know how to put this in words, but it's just exciting to work our way up here. —Westlake's Samantha Hester
TAYLORSVILLE — There's a first time for everything, and the Westlake girls basketball team's first-ever postseason win won't soon be forgotten for those who played a part in it. But not just for the accomplishment itself, but for how the Thunder battled back to overcome Herriman late, taking a 50-47 win in the first round of the 6A playoffs on Tuesday.
The play looked as if it were run to perfection, although Westlake coach Mike O'Connor explained it wasn't necessarily so.
With the score tied at 46-46 with just under 20 seconds left, Westlake's Ashley Parry inbounded the ball and quickly received it back while darting to the basket. She then pulled up and threw it back to an open Samantha Hester, who made the shot to give Westlake its first lead at 48-46 with 11 seconds left.
“We designed the play and then it ran into another play,” O’Connor explained. “It ran into the second option — the second play, and we got a back cut out of it instead of the (3-point attempt.)”
Hester receiving the ball about 10 feet from the bucket turned out to be a pretty good second option, with the junior knowing exactly what to do with it.
“She’s been big all year and was in the right place at the right time,” O’Connor said.
Herriman converted a foul shot on the other end to draw to within one point with 8.6 seconds left before Hester sank two foul shots to increase the lead to 50-47 with 7.9 seconds left. A desperation 3-point attempt by the Mustangs fell short, as the Westlake bench emptied to celebrate the program's historic moment.
"We got a confidence booster and it's a lot more energized being here. I don't know how to put this in words, but it's just exciting to work our way up here," Hester said.
Hester was part of a Westlake team that has seen its share of struggles in recent history, making the win that much sweeter.
"It's a thrill to see a group of kids — I mean they were 2-22 two years ago — and then I took over last year and we went 9-12," O'Connor said. " So I didn't know it would happen this fast. I was hoping it would, but the kids deserve all the credit. They're hungry and they absorb everything we try and teach, and I'm just thrilled to be a part of it."
With the win, Westlake advances to the semifinal round where it will take on Hillcrest.