SARATOGA SPRINGS — It's unusual to see the Olympus boys basketball team barely escape with a 77-75 win given the team's recent success rate, but when the opponent is as formidable as Westlake, and when your star player uncharacteristically struggles down the stretch, such things happen.
Fortunately for the Titans, Rylan Jones reverted back to form when it mattered most, sinking two foul shots with 4.7 seconds left to seal the win.
"I think the odds are pretty high he hits those after missing the one before and then turning it over," said Olympus coach Matt Barnes. "He's just such a tough kid and yeah, he was very upset at himself."
Jones' turnover and missed front-end of a 1-and-1 foul shot opportunity both occurred within the game's final minute and led to the Thunder, who trailed throughout, tying it at 75-75 on a Jared McGregor 3-pointer. The shot pumped up the home crowd considerably and left Olympus in a rare situation of needing to make a play at the end to win.
Enter a resilient and determined Jones.
The Utah Ute signee effectively drove the lane to draw a foul as the defense set up two shots that he swished through to recapture the lead. The Thunder then effectively set up a good open-look at the buzzer, but had the shot just rim out to give the Titans the win.
"Westlake made some real good plays and gave us everything we could handle," Barnes said. "It's awesome for us to have a game like this. We've had some real tough games against 6A opponents, and this was as tough as any of them. But we really think games like this will help us going into region play."
Although the game came down to the final seconds, the Titans led throughout.
Led by a barrage of 3-pointers from Jeremy Dowdell, Olympus quickly jumped out on top to lead 27-14 after one quarter. Westlake then clamped down considerably on the defensive end and cut the lead to just one point before a 3-pointer from Jackson Frank at the first-half buzzer earned some breathing space, leading 40-36.
"That was a big shot for us, and we really needed big shots tonight to close out quarters," Barnes said.
Olympus controlled the play throughout most of the third quarter until Westlake managed to close a bit to trail just 58-52 entering the game's final eight minutes. The teams traded baskets for much of those final eight minutes before the Thunder caught fire in the form of three 3-pointers made in the final three minutes, courtesy of McGregor, Austin White and Greyden Fausett.Comment on this story
"We gave up some big leads and we absolutely have to work on doing better on that type of thing, but hat's off to Westlake. Like I said, that's a very, very good team that we played here tonight," Barnes said. "We're not the same team as last year. We were spoiled a bit last year with all those big wins, but this year's different. Every year is different, and we're still figuring some things out."
Leading the way for Olympus on Tuesday was Dowdell, who finished with 33 points, along with Jones, who added 21. Westlake was paced by McGregor, Tredyn Christensen and White, who scored 19, 13 and 15 points, respectively.
With the win, Olympus improves to 11-2 on the year and will next travel to take on West. The Thunder drop to 12-1 with the loss and will look to rebound when traveling to take on Copper Hills.