RICHFIELD — For practically the entire season one thing was all but certain about boys basketball in the 2A classification — the Layton Christian Academy Eagles were going to repeat as state champs.
After all, they had handled each and every 2A opponent they had faced all year and beaten much higher classification teams like Roy and West. Coupled with their title run in 2017, during which they beat every team they faced by at least 10 points, and the Eagles looked nigh unbeatable.
That is until Friday night at the Sevier Valley Center. Led by seniors Davis Heslington and Porter Hollingshead, who combined to score 38 points, the Beaver Beavers did the unthinkable and defeated the defending champs 57-51.
“We knew that we had a good team,” said Heslington. “Our coaches, our whole staff and every player. We knew when we watched film what we had to do to win the game. We knew that if we executed how we were supposed to as a team that we had a great chance to win the game.”
Per Beaver head coach Joe Hillock, the Beavers executed the game-plan to near perfection.
“They took the game plan and executed it pretty darn well,” said Hillock. “They did everything we asked them to do. I don’t know who the jockey was on Secretariat, but that is who I felt like today.”
Leading the way was Heslington, who finished with a game-high 22 points. 10 of those came in a particularly eventful first quarter in which the Beavers jumped out to a 12-2 advantage. The senior guard also drilled six clutch free throws in the fourth quarter, including the final two that officially sealed the victory.
“It wasn’t all me,” said Heslington. “We executed what we went through last night and this morning. We did what we talk about all the time. We took care of the ball, made them play defense, slowed it down and didn’t let them get easy layups. It worked out.”
Heslington was right of course. It took a phenomenal effort from each and every Beaver player to take down the Eagles.
“I’m proud of them all,” said Hillock. “It was a total team effort. We got great contributions from all of the seniors, but also Ky Brown. (Brown) came in, as a freshman, and made some huge plays. Preston Roberts, who has started for us since Dalton Hoyt got hurt, played great. I am proud of them all.”
The Beavers led for most of the contest and led 16-12 after the first quarter and 28-22 at halftime, but the Eagles almost always seemed on the cusp of stealing the game away.
By the end of the third period, Layton Christian seemed to have solved the Beavers' defense.
Sano Gasana, who finished with a team-best 16 points, scored 10 in the third as the Eagles cut the Beavers' lead to just three.
Layton Christian was never able to get closer than one point in the final frame, however, and finally watched the game slip away when their 3-point shooting failed them late.
“They made a little run and our coaches just told us to stick with it,” said Heslington. “We didn’t come this far just to quit. We just gave it everything we had.
On this occasion that was enough for the Beavers, who advance to the state title game, which is slated to tip off at 7 p.m. Saturday.
As for how his team can refocus in less than a day, after such a draining and memorable performance no less, Hillock said, “Our rule has always been midnight. Celebrate until midnight and then we move on to the next team.”
“This team has done a good job of that all year long,” he continued. “We will celebrate on the bus. You’ve got to relish this and have some fun, but once we get off that bus we are on to the next game.”