TAYLORSVILLE — In the first-round contest against Syracuse on Monday night at Salt Lake Community College, Westlake entered the fourth quarter up just 29-28. The Thunder used a huge fourth quarter to advance to the second round, defeating the Titans 53-37.
"Our kids were patient, they didn't lose their composure, big fourth quarter, and here we are," Westlake head coach Michael O'Connor said.
Westlake outscored Syracuse 24-9 in the final quarter of play, and defense led to offense for the Thunder.
"The defense made things really hard for them. We won the game because our kids played defense," O'Connor said.
Syracuse went 7-for-13 from the field in the first half and finished 13-for-30.
"We had to correct. They make seven, why did they make seven (field goals)? So we just broke down, what are they doing. One, you have to stop people from crossing your face, stop penetration. After halftime, I thought we did a terrific job — except for a few stretches," O'Connor said.
The game slowed down for the Thunder when it mattered most. Syracuse tried to pressure Westlake in the fourth quarter and the Thunder made it pay, exploiting the defense for 24 fourth-quarter points.
"The game loosened up a little, too. All of the sudden they (Syracuse) extended their pressure and opened the floor up and it opened us up a little, it didn't feel so compact and tight. We tried to tell them, 'Let's push it a little, try and catch them not in position,'" O'Connor said. "Syracuse did their homework and they tried to take away the stuff we do best and in the end, our defense created good offense."
Marissa Scoresby led the charge as the Thunder dominated the last quarter. With Westlake up 34-29 with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth, Scoresby took over, scoring the next 11 points for Westlake on two 3-pointers, an and-one and a pair of free throws as the Thunder increased their lead to 45-33 with less than two minutes remaining.
"It just goes to show, just the ability to hang in there. She was in foul trouble all game and she just hung in, hung in, hung in and played her best when best was needed. That's big," O'Connor said. "I think Sam (Hester) kept us in it, she hit some shots the entire time. We had some big and-ones there, a lot of that was penetration and the kids all of the sudden loosened up and started attacking them a little more."Comment on this story
Scoresby finished with 11 points (all in the fourth quarter), Hester had 17 and Rian Fullmer had eight.
Up next for the Thunder is a formidable opponent in Copper Hills.
"The four kids who kind of led us along the road last year, they've been there, and fourth quarter, they played like they've been here before. We're going to have to do that on Wednesday, that's for sure," O'Connor said. "That team is going to come at us, come at us, come at us. Two teams that have been ranked high all year long. It's going to be fun."