SALT LAKE CITY — The last time TJ Haws was in the Huntsman Center, he was a BYU fan — also his brother's fan.
He wore the late-game scowl of a guy whose team lost, and it did as he sat by the baseline and watched Utah celebrate a December win against the Cougars and older sibling, Tyler.
Fast forward to Tuesday: Haws had that same focused, somewhat aggravated appearance despite his team being in solid shape. He scored an early second-half layup that turned into a 3-point play, and hardly acknowledged the success of the inbounds play.
He'd lighten up, though, and Lone Peak would run up the score as expected in an 87-60 first-round win at the 5A state tournament against Syracuse.
Really, the entire Knights team was just a little miffed after they had some defensive issues in the first half against a team with a 9-12 record heading to the postseason.
The Titans had seven offensive rebounds in the first half, only trailing 36-31 after falling behind 10-2 early.
"I wouldn't say mad, but we were...well, I guess we were a little bit mad," said Lone Peak guard Zach Frampton, who had 10 of his 15 points in the first half. "But you've just got to let it go and get ready for the second half."
That's when Haws let loose with 22 of his game-high 29 points, and his display included a few nifty assists as he broke through Syracuse's constant attempts at double-teams. The future Cougar, capping his senior year, dished a behind-the-back pass to Frank Jackson, and later an alley-oop as part of an onslaught that had Lone Peak looking exactly like the three-time defending state champions that they are.
"It's been the same thing since when I was a freshman," Haws said of his focus level.
Of course, the parts are different than last year. That team was quite arguably the best team in the country (many pundits declared as much about the crew whose only loss came out of state) and this one has Haws needing to be Lone Peak's best player and also its most unselfish.
He had just seven points in the first half on 3-of-5 shooting.
But he opened the second half following a Frampton 3-pointer with nine consecutive points on a 3-point play at 6:44 then 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to run the lead to 48-33. He had 13 points in the third quarter, running the lead to 63-47 at the end of the period with a coast-to-coast layup when the ball fluttered peacefully through the net on a scoop shot.
Late, he assisted a 3-point play for Jackson (19 points) that had the good-spirited Syracuse student section chanting "darn you, TJ."
Frampton wasn't too shabby, either. The versatile guard, whom Lewis called "exceptional" for his stat-stuffing ability, had 15 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in 21 minutes. Combined with Haws, the duo made 17-of-25 shots.
Lone Peak improved to 20-3.
Bingham will get a Thursday night (7:30 p.m.) crack at the Knights after ousting West, 73-42 in the 9:30 a.m. game.
Lewis would like to see a better start. Syracuse produced a 17-each rebounding stalemate.
"They got a lot of easy baskets in the first half because we simply didn't rebound or we let them have open shots," Lewis said.
He acknowledged this is a different team though, with different roles — getting its footing in the state environment.
"We've been a work in progress all year," he said.
Lone Peak 87, Syracuse 60
Syracuse: Thalman 7, Phelps 18, Mudrow 4, Herfel 10, Hall 2, Whatcott 3, Atkinson 6, Watson 6, Call 4. Totals: 23 10-13 60.
Lone Peak: Haws 29, Allphin 9, Jackson 19, Frampton 15, Hedin 4, Aton 1, Curtis 10. Totals: 32 14-17 87.
3-point goals: Herfel 2, Phelps, Whatcott; Haws 5, Jackson 2, Frampton, Allphin.