When the scoreboard shows a 1-point game with less than 90 seconds to play in a boys basketball, every play becomes crucial. No one knows which pass, which defensive play, which rebound or which shot will turn the game one way or the other.
Tuesday night in Saratoga Springs, the Westlake boys basketball team found themselves in just that circumstance as it hosted Lone Peak in a game where both teams gave everything they had.
In the end, however, it was the Thunder who came up big in crunch time as they edged the Knights, 61-56.
“They jumped on us early, then we came back,” Westlake head coach Nate Carling said. “Our defensive effort was tremendous. We’ve worked really hard on it and it’s something we take a lot of pride in. We don’t mix it up and play zone. We just play tough man-to-man. Lone Peak is a very talented offensive team so holding them under 60 points was big for us.”
It was some big defensive plays that swung the game in favor of the Thunder.
Westlake led by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter but the Knights made a huge rally, surging back in front.
A layup, a defensive stop, a free throw and another defensive stop gave the home team that 1-point edge on the scoreboard and the ball with just over a minute left on the clock.
The Knights desperately attacked, trying to force a turnover, but the Thunder moved the ball well and got it inside for a layup by sophomore guard Willy Jensen.
As Lone Peak attempted to get back down the court to answer, Westlake junior guard Noah Madsen make a huge play as he swiped the ball from a Knight player and scored a breakaway layup to push the Thunder lead to two possessions.
“That’s something he’s done for us in key moments this year,” Carling said. “We beat Ridgeline by a point in Logan and he did the same thing. Somehow he is just able to pick the moment where it hurts the other team the most.”
That steal and bucket along with another defensive stop allowed the Thunder to put the game away at the free-throw line.
“We had our lead disappear in the blink of an eye,” Carling said. “I like the resiliency our boys showed as they continued to make plays and trust each other. I’m proud of these guys.”
Westlake was led by 15 points from junior guard Noah Mccord, while Lone Peak got 16 points from senior guard Corbin Zentner.
Carling said being able to hold on means his team started Region 4 play with a home win but there is still something special about knocking off Lone Peak.
“For the first five years we played them we weren’t able to stay within 40 points of them,” Carling said. “Then the next couple of years we were able to get close but weren’t able to turn the corner. Last year was the first time we beat them and now we’ve won three in a row. It shows that our culture is developing, that we belong and have every right to win. But we know if we want to win region, we have to find ways to win on the road.”
The Thunder (10-3, 1-0) next head to Skyridge for a big game against the Falcons on Friday, while Lone Peak (7-5, 0-1) hosts American Fork on the same day.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.