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High school basketball: West rallies, records 15th straight win

SALT LAKE CITY — With a comfy lead in Region 2 and the longest current winning streak in 5A, the West Panthers are wearing a fairly large target on their backs these days.

Opponents are giving West their best shot, and on Tuesday night, it was Skyline's turn. The Eagles were in control of the game early, but West regrouped, turned in a solid defensive effort in the fourth quarter and won its 15th straight game, 54-45.

"Coach (Bob Lyman) said every game we play from now on is even bigger," said West guard Tyrell Corbin, who scored a team-high 16 points. "Everyone wants to come out and get us. We just have to learn how to come out from the start and realize it's a big game and everyone wants to win."

The Eagles, and especially sophomore Jaden Jackson, showed up to play on West's home court. Jackson made three 3-pointers in the first quarter as Skyline jumped out to a 16-7 lead. The Panthers quickly cut into the Eagles' lead, and the game stayed close until the final minutes.

West led Skyline 47-45 when the Eagles' Brian Orr hit a 3-pointer with 3:58 left in the game. That's when the Panthers turned up the heat on defense, holding Skyline scoreless the rest of the game. The Eagles, on their final eight possessions, missed six shots and had two turnovers. Skyline had four possessions with a chance to tie it or take the lead and came up empty each time.

"Defense — that's how we won the game," said West center Gatete Djuma.

Lyman wasn't sure if it was his team's defense or simply Skyline missing shots that made the difference. When he was informed of how long West had held the Eagles without scoring at the end of the game, he credited his players.

"Knowing that they didn't score I'll say we tightened up our defense," he said. "We did a good job on it."

The Panthers did a better job on Jackson as the game progressed. Jackson led all scorers with 21 points and five 3's, but he was held to seven points and one 3-pointer in the second half.

"They made a big run on us in the beginning, and we couldn't really stop Jaden Jackson," Corbin said. "In the second half, we made it a point to play defense on them, and it worked out for us."

West went as cold as Skyline did late in the game and was held without a field goal in the game's final four minutes. The Panthers, however, made enough free throws to seal the win. Corbin made two foul shots with 1:07 remaining to make it a two-possession game. Tana Afeaki and Jordan Tanner, a deadly spot-up shooter, combined to make five free throws in the final minute.

Djuma had 15 points for West. Afeaki and Tanner each chipped in eight points. Skyline's Mike Staes scored eight points and hit two 3's.

The Panthers improved to 9-0 in Region 2 and 16-2 overall. Skyline fell to 6-3 and 9-9. West leads second-place Murray by 2½ games in Region 2 with three games left to play in the regular season.

"We're in the driver's seat, but it's not cinched," Lyman said. "We've got to take it one at a time. We start talking first place right now, we'll end up second or third."