RICHFIELD — Spend any time around sports and a common refrain emerges, defense wins championships. That belief, more than any other, epitomizes what coaches and players strive for. On Thursday morning at the Sevier Valley Center, the Layton Christian Eagles proved the refrain true, well except for the championship part, though that may very well be on its way.
Behind a smothering defense, as well as a star effort by Christians Gutierrez, the Eagles took down the higher-seeded South Sevier Rams 57-47, and advanced to the 2A semifinals.
“They did it,” said Layton Christian coach Bobby Porter. “We have a team that’s been here before. At halftime I stressed that it was time to go. We have been here before and we have experience. The kids went out in the second half and did it. I have some great seniors, and they led us to the win.”
One of those seniors, Gutierrez, finished with a game-high 20 points. It was a perfect outing for Gutierrez, who finished 8 for 8 from the field and 4 for 4 from the free-throw line.
“(Gutierrez) is an incredible kid that has been underrated all year long,” said Porter. “He does whatever is necessary for us to win, and his teammates realize that he can play. They got (the ball) to him and he got it done.”
In addition to Gutierrez, the Eagles got vital contributions from the likes of Nicolas Aguirre and Chan Hargraves, who finished with 10 and nine points respectively.
It was Aguirre, with the game tied at 24 points apiece midway through the third quarter, who broke the game open for the Eagles. The senior, who missed most of the season with injury, scored on a breakaway, and then, one possession later, drilled a deep three to push the Eagles' lead to a game-high eight points. One Gutierrez basket later and Layton Christian took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter.
South Sevier tried to rally in the final frame, and, thanks to a pair of 3-pointers courtesy of Porter Dowell and Kaetz King, the Rams were able to cut the deficit to just two points.
Fortunately for the Eagles, Chan Hargraves suits up for them. Hargraves scored seven consecutive points in fourth, two of which came on a dish by teammate Pedro Silva.
Hargraves' outburst, as well as the turnover-inducing defense that Layton Christian fans have come to know, stole the momentum back for the Eagles in time for the win.
The Rams were led by Buddy Gardner with 14 points, as well as Kaetz King and Brodee Tebbs, who each finished with nine points.
“We got the win, but I have to give credit to South Sevier,” said Porter. “They had to play without (Tyson Chisholm) today. He is a key cog for them and would have made all the difference.”
With the victory, the Eagles advance to Friday’s semifinals, where they will face off against the Summit Academy Bears.