AMERICAN FORK — For the first time in the three-year history of the Utah Elite 8, Olympus gets to experience the path through the winners bracket.
After getting bounced in the first round each of the past two years, Olympus held off Bingham in the fourth quarter on Thursday night for the 63-59 win to advance to the tourney semifinals on Friday.
Rylan Jones scored 24 points to lead the Titans, which took advantage of 17 Bingham turnovers en route to the victory at American Fork High School.
“Any time you play Bingham and beat Bingham it’s a great win and you’re going to have to play well to win,” said Olympus coach Matt Barnes. “They were strong, good-looking football kids. We’ve got to bring our toughness and go to work.”
Three of Bingham’s starters were also starters on the football team, and they brought a toughness to the game that Olympus found a way to match.
“They’re back-to-back state champs, you don’t expect anything less. They’re tough, physical, they’re very good and they’re a hard team to play,” said Jones.
Bingham was a hard team to put away as well.
Olympus went ahead 56-48 on a 3-pointer by Spencer Jones on the first possession of the fourth quarter, but it went nearly four minutes without scoring again. In the meantime, Bingham cut the deficit to 56-54 with 4:25 remaining.
Turnovers kept the Miners from chipping away at the lead any further, including a stretch with three straight turnovers in the final three minutes.
In the midst of those turnovers, Olympus’ Jacob Dowdell scored on a driving lay-up with 2:03 remaining to push the lead back to 60-55.
Bingham’s Ryan Wood responded with a lay-up to cut the deficit to 60-57 with just over a minute remaining, but Jones helped ice the win down the stretch by making 3 of 4 free throws.
“It wasn’t the best fourth quarter we could’ve had, we could’ve put them away there when we were up 7 or 8, but we executed down the stretch, we played good defense when it mattered,” said Jones.
That defense helped Olympus open up a big lead in the first half as well.
Trailing 25-20 early in the second quarter, the Titans went on a 14-0 run as they capitalized on a six straight Bingham possessions that ended in turnovers.
The punctuation mark on the 14-0 run was Jones fast-break three-point play in which he dribbled behind his back in traffic and finished at the rim despite being hit by two Bingham defenders.