WEST JORDAN — The defending 5A state champion West Jordan Jaguars avoided a minor upset when Pleasant Grove star Sefa Tanoai's three-point bomb rimmed out at the buzzer, allowing the Jaguars to emerge unscathed with a 52-50 win in the second round of the 5A state tournament on Tuesday.
"From my angle—he's such a good player and he got such good lift on the shot—it looked like he nailed it," West Jordan head coach Scott Briggs said. "My heart stopped."
In a game of shifts, Pleasant Grove carried the momentum in the first two quarters. The Vikings dominated the boards, pulling down seven offensive rebounds in the first-half to create second (and often third) chance opportunities. The Jaguars only managed one offensive rebound of their seven total at the break.
Though the Jaguars couldn't get anything going inside against Pleasant Grove's big men, they hit several important outside shots in the first-half to keep the Vikings contained. Pleasant Grove extended its lead to eight points at the five-minute mark in the second quarter, but West Jordan senior Andre Ashton hit a three to help the Jaguars stop the bleeding. All of West Jordan's second quarter field goals came off three-pointers.
"Fortunately for us, we were able to hit some huge jumpers there in the second quarter, because it was getting away from us," Briggs said.
In the second-half, the tempo shifted West Jordan's way. The Jaguars led by seven points as late as three minutes into the fourth-quarter, but could never quite get over that bubble to pull away entirely as Pleasant Grove continued to pound the boards, pulling down 26 total rebounds to West Jordan's 17.
In the final two minutes, the Jaguars tried to keep the ball in Ashton's hands. Ashton, the only West Jordan player who saw any action in last year's state championship game, tallied 13 points and eight assists on the night, but it was his composure and leadership in the fourth quarter that helped the Jaguars hold on for the win.
"Andre is who we are going to battle with," Briggs said. "When the game is on the line, we want the ball in his hands."
Sophomore Jordan Loveridge also had several big moments in the second-half for West Jordan, putting in nine of his 12 points and nabbing four rebounds, while senior Brady Hoglund was money for Pleasant Grove, going five-for-five from the three-point line on the night for 15 points. Tanoai led the Vikings offensively with eight points in the first-half, but couldn't convert a field goal in the second, collecting 12 points and five rebounds in the game.
The Jaguars will now face the Davis Darts in the 5A quarterfinals at 2:15 today at Weber State's Dee Events Center. The Darts got away with a one-point win in OT when the two teams met back in early-December.
"There are a lot of great coaches in the state, but I think we're playing for the best. He knows how to win and get us ready to win," Ashton said.
"It's just survive and advance at this point. We've got to look at it one game at a time. Everyone is fighting for their life."