It’s so great to win. Being the bridesmaid is OK, but being the bride is great. I’ve got a great coaching staff, great players, and this is just a true, true blessing. – Layton Christian coach Bobby Porter
RICHFIELD — After falling to Summit Academy in 2016’s 2A championship game, and by only one point no less, the Layton Christian Academy Eagles were determined to not let such a fate befall them again.
So instead of a close championship, Saturday night at the Sevier Valley Center, they gave us a rout.
Layton Christian Academy, led by the all-around play of Sano Gasana, not to mention the contributions of Pedro Silva and Nicholas Aguirre, crushed the Waterford Ravens 59-41.
“It’s so great to win,” Layton Christian coach Bobby Porter said. “Being the bridesmaid is OK, but being the bride is great. I’ve got a great coaching staff, great players, and this is just a true, true blessing.”
Coming into the contest, the Region 14 rivals had split their two regular season meetings, but with the return of Eagles star point guard Aguirre from a stress fracture, Layton Christian was an entirely different team.
“Nico is the best point guard. Period,” said Porter. “People didn’t know how good Nico truly was. For a young man to miss 19 games to a stress fracture and come back and be able to play. You saw him tonight. The point guard is the most important player on the team, he is the coach on the floor. Without Nico we don’t win.”
The Ravens actually started the game with the lead, thanks to a made free throw by Jackson Sponaugle. Aguirre answered that score with a 3-pointer, but Xander Priskos was able to tie the game at three points apiece with a floater in the lane.
That was as close as Waterford would get.
Gasana, showcasing his elite athleticism, quickly made his mark on the game with six first-quarter points, all on layups.
“I just knew everything was at stake here tonight,” Gasana said. “The whole season I have been going soft to the rim, and Coach told me I needed to go strong. We needed to go out and beat this team, and that's what we did.”
Christians Gutierrez, the Eagles' leading scorer this season, also got involved in the first with a basket, and Chan Hargraves gave perhaps the highlight of the game with a fierce driving dunk.
Waterford kept the margin close thanks to a couple of Sponaugle free throws and a Priskos 3-point play, but at the end of one quarter, the score was 16-10.
Things got a bit chippy in the second period, and neither team played what could be described as pretty basketball. The Eagles eventually stretched their lead to 10 points, with Pedro Silva making his mark with a couple of baskets.
The third quarter was where the Eagles flexed their collective muscle. Again Gasana made his presence felt, this time on defense. The junior racked up multiple steals, leading to multiple easy transition buckets. Add in 3-pointers by Aguirre and Hargraves, and the Eagles were able to start the quarter on an impressive 11-0 run.
Layton Christian eventually outscored the Ravens 20-12 in the quarter, and with that the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.
Emotions boiled over in the fourth, as Waterford was clearly frustrated by the result of the game after such a long and successful season. For Sponaugle, Alexander Priskos and Parker Law, it was the last time they would wear the Raven uniform, and the passion showed.
Waterford pulled within 12 points with about two minutes remaining, but Silva, on dishes from his Eagles teammates, scored six quick points. The scores made certain only the Eagles would leave Richfield happy, and with the title of 2A state champions.
“Especially with losing last year to Summit Academy, this feels so great,” said Gasana. “To beat them and win the state championship, I feel so great right now.”