RICHFIELD — With just over four minutes remaining in 2A quarterfinals contest between the Duchesne Eagles and the Rowland Hall St. Marks Winged Lions, Duchesne head coach Billy Hoopes called a timeout.
The reason? He felt the game had shifted in the favor of the No. 1-seeded Winged Lions, despite his team holding a sizable 14 point advantage.
“It felt like the game had a few things going their way for a minute,” said Hoopes. “It was tight.”
In the timeout, Hoopes told his players “layups win the game,” and exhorted them to go to the hoop.
On the very next play the Eagles did just that, pushing their lead to 16. Four in-game minutes later, Duchesne had a 53-35 victory and a berth in the semifinals.
That sequence, in particular, epitomized the Eagles throughout the contest. Whatever Hoopes asked them to do, they did.
Senior Brayden Johnson, who finished with nine points, was asked to limit Rowland Hall St. Marks star Jack Dischman to under 10 points — Dischman finished with four points.
“Brayden did an awesome job on their best player,” said Hoopes. “He did a great job defensively. I don’t know how many Dischman had, but we held him down.”
“Weston did a great job,” said Hoopes. “ We usually don’t have him guard guys that are that small but he did a great job.”
Skyler Ford (eight points) was asked to play big minutes when foul trouble reared its head and he did so with much effect.
“A guy that was a big a part as anyone was Skyler Ford,” said Hoopes. “He gave us some huge minutes off the bench when guys got into foul trouble.”
The Eagles were collectively asked to limit Rowland Hall St. Marks dynamic offense, the Winged Lions averaged over 64 points per game this season, the second-best mark in 2A, and all they did was hold the designated home team to just barely over half their average.
“Our kids have really come together defensively. They are figuring it out,’ said Hoopes. “We try to take away the best thing that other teams do, make it tough on them.”
Perhaps nothing sums up the Eagles efforts Thursday at the Sevier Valley Center better than collective effort. Duchesne as a team just proved too much for the Rowland Hall.
“It was a combined effort to be honest with you,” said Hoopes.
That combined effort showed from the opening tip to the final whistle. The Eagles were quite simply the better team and won three of the games quarters, tying with the Winged Lions in the second.
The second half, in particular, was where Duchesne shined.
The Eagles outscored Rowland Hall by a combined nine points over the third and fourth quarters, weathering any and all last ditch efforts by the Winged Lions.
“It doesn’t always work like (it did today) but they did a great job,” said Hoopes. “We are playing great right now.”
Up next for the Eagles is a semifinals matchup with the No. 2 Parowan Rams, set to be played Friday, Feb. 23 at 9:10 p.m.