OGDEN — Top-seeded Woods Cross had something to prove in the first round of the 4A playoffs Monday evening.
After constantly hearing how good Region 6 was all year and feeling a little disrespected, the Wildcats, who won Region 5, came out and made a statement with a huge 69-44 victory over Region 6's fourth-seeded Hillcrest at Weber State University.
“We did mention (to our guys) that a lot of people were talking about how great Region 6 is, which they are, but we needed a little bit of motivation. We talked about how people were talking about how Region 5 wasn’t really good, and I think we proved tonight that we had a really competitive league this year,” Woods Cross head coach Kasey Walkenhurst said.
Woods Cross forward Trevin Knell wasted no time finding a rhythm as he came out and scored 11 points in the first 16 minutes to help spark an 18-3 run and head to the break in complete control up 34-14.
The star junior drilled four of his first eight shots and connected on three of four shots from downtown to get rolling early and put the visitors on their heels.
“I came out and was feeling it during warm-ups. I thought the hoop looked huge today, so the first time down I came down and shot a pull-up jumper from three and it went in. My confidence level was soaring and my mentality was just to keep shooting — it worked out,” said Knell.
Not only were the Wildcats clicking on offense, but their tremendous defense continued to bother the Huskies, who shot just 33 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep, and spark their offense.
“We had a pretty good game plan coming in. We knew their weaknesses and strengths and our guys just performed our game plan to perfection,” Walkenhurst said. “Hillcrest kind of shot it poorly, which sometimes you up do in the state tournament in a new arena, but we’re sure happy with our effort, especially with our rebounding because we’re always undersized.”
Without a playoff victory since 2011 and the arrival of Walkenhurst, Woods Cross remained heavily motivated in the second half on both ends and cruised to a 52-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We were really excited coming in. Coach Walkenhurst has really helped us get ready for this game. We were a little nervous, because it was our first time going to state as a whole group, and he said the best way to calm your nerves is to play defense. I think it really showed tonight that we stepped our game up,” said Knell.
And it showed.
The Wildcats, led by Knell, refused to let up every time Hillcrest made a push and finished strong to keep the Huskies at bay and cruise to the 25-point, first-round victory.
Knell followed up his strong first-half performance with an even better showing in the final 16 minutes to cap off a 23-point, eight-rebound, four-assist and two-block night. He went 9-of-15 from the field, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Woods Cross will now advance to the second round of the 4A playoffs where it is set to take on Payson Wednesday night at 7:30 pm at the University of Utah.
“Honestly, I haven’t seen them play once this year or on film. I’ve only seen them tonight in the game before. I know they’ve got some guys who can shoot it and they’re physical. We’re excited about the matchup,” Walkenhurst said.
Ryan Love is a full-time student and has been a part-time sportswriter for Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724