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Boys high school basketball: Thunder strike down Region 1 champion Warriors

OGDEN — And then the mighty Thunder struck down the stunned Warriors, vanquishing them with two fierce blows.

OK, not to go all biblical on you, but that's pretty much what transpired in Tuesday's first-round game of the 5A boys state tournament.

Westlake High, the fourth-place finisher from Region 4, staged a pair of impressive third-quarter scoring sprees and got double-digit scoring from Asa McCord, Maizen Fausett and Michael Nelson to oust Region 1 champion Weber High 70-51 at the Dee Events Center.

McCord, a muscular 6-foot-5 senior forward, led all scorers with 19 points on superb 8-of-11 shooting from the field and also pulled down a game-high nine rebounds for the Thunder, who improved to 18-6 overall with their fourth straight win. They have not lost a game this season to a non-league opponent.

Fausett, a slender 6-6 senior forward, added 17 points, seven rebounds, five blocks, four steals and three assists in a stats-stuffing, all-around game for Westlake, which broke open a tight contest with scoring runs of 9-0 and 11-2 in the third period.

That helped turn a tight 29-25 halftime lead into a 17-point margin, 51-34, that the Warriors (19-4) could never recover from.

"I'm proud," said Fausett, who expected his team to come up with just such a strong showing despite its lower tourney seeding. "Absolutely. We've been playing with confidence and, if we just play the way we have been for the last three games, we can beat anybody.

"Coach said that was the hardest part of state, the first half, just the first game of the first half is the hardest part of state. So we knew, we had confidence that we'd come out strong (in the second half).

"We just started playing as a team a little better," he said of their second-half performance. "We took some selfish shots in the beginning, but we cleaned that up."

Nelson netted 14 points and four assists as the Thunder shattered Weber's high postseason hopes after the Warriors had swept the Region 1 title with a spotless 12-0 record and came into the state tournament having won 15 of their previous 16 games overall.

"I know one thing for sure — going undefeated in your region is a tremendous, very difficult thing to do because you're getting their best shot from everybody every night," Westlake coach Nate Carling said in a classy nod to Weber's strong season. "So a lot of credit to them for what they accomplished.

"I know our league is very good, top to bottom, and it really prepared us for this. Maybe what helped us the most is we've had to win the last three (Region 4) games just to get here. So we've been in a playoff mentality, a survive-and-advance mentality, for the last couple of weeks, where they've had it wrapped up for awhile and haven't been in that situation. And I think that probably helped us a bit tonight."

Fausett agreed.

"It's a very good region; there's no games off," he said. "Every game we've got to come out and play our best."

Weber held an early four-point lead and trailed by just four, 29-25, at halftime. But after the Warriors pulled within a point early in the third period, the Thunder hammered them hard as Fausett scored nine points, McCord added six and Shamon Willis had five more as Westlake went on its two decisive scoring sprees to open up a 51-34 lead.

Steady fourth-quarter scoring by McCord, Nelson and Trenton Fullmer kept the Thunder comfortably ahead the rest of the way.

Spencer Campbell led Weber with 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals, while Grant Ellison added 10 points, Connor Shaw contributed eight points and four assists, and Cameron Mortenson scored six more for the Warriors, who shot just 33 percent (17 of 51) from the field and missed 10 of their 22 free throws.

"We're playing our best basketball right now, we feel," Coach Carling said. "The last three or four games, we feel like the team's starting to come together. We went through some adversity in the middle of the season, learned from it, and I think we're better because of it today. Luckily, there was enough time for us to finally figure it out.

"I thought the first half, (the Warriors) got the offensive boards, so we held 'em to one shot (in the second half) and strung a few shots together. And when we can get a few shots together, then our offense gets going.

"And then the key was consistency on the defensive end," he said. "We had some blocks and steals and a couple of run-outs, and that kinda loosened everything up."

Westlake advances to Thursday's tourney action at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center, where the Thunder will take on Brighton — a 55-52 winner over Davis — in a 5:50 p.m. quarterfinal clash.