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6A boys basketball tournament: Suffocating defense lifts Lone Peak over Davis

By Rich Winter

For The Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — After starting slowly during Tuesday’s 6A opening round victory over Herriman, Lone Peak got it going early during Thursday’s 6A quarterfinals. The Knights, playing perhaps their best defense of the season led 35-18 at the half and extended the lead for a final margin of 72-48.

The Knights forced 15 turnovers and out-rebounded the Darts, 41-25. Lone Peak was led by Steven Ashworth’s 19, Jaxon Pollard’s 14 and Jackson Brinkerhoff’s 11.

“Davis is a good team so the boys didn’t want to take them lightly,” David Evans, Lone Peak coach said. “I think our bigs came out defensively, I think that’s the best game they’ve played all year.”

The Knights set goals before every game. Thursday’s goal was to outrebound the Darts by ten. Mission accomplished as the advantage was (41-25) with 21 of the 41 coming via the offensive glass.

“Defense is the most important thing right now,” Evans said. “Shots are going to fall, they’re not going to fall so we’ve gotta be ready defensively just to hang in every single game.”

Six months ago, Lone Peak junior Jaxon Pollard wasn’t even sure if he’d see the floor for the Knights this year. An ACL tear earlier this year month was followed by tons of rehabilitation, and while Pollard stuck with the team all year, he didn’t see the floor until a Feb. 13 game against Pleasant Grove.

In three games prior to Thursday’s contest with Davis, Pollard had outputs of four, five and three. Thursday, Pollard, coming off the bench, hit an early 3-pointer, followed that up with a tip-in and hit another 3-pointer to begin the second-quarter as Lone Peak led, 23-8. The Pollard added three rebounds, one assist and one steal during his best game of 2018.

“I like the sixth-man role,” Pollard said. “It’s nice having the boys develop a little flow and let me come in to give them a little boost, you know, a little bit of energy.”

The Knights converted 13-35, 3-pointers with Ashworth canning 5-9. The 6-foot-1 senior had his fingerprints all over Thursday’s game, adding nine rebounds and six assists to his 19 points. The Darts leading scorer, Josh Sanders was held to nine points, seven below his season average.

Trailing by 17 at the half, the Darts, 17-8 played much better in the second half but could never get it closer than 42-29 after a Tyson Garff bucket. The Dart bigs, Garff and Rich Stucki both reached double-figures, combining for 25 points.

Lone Peak, 21-3 moves on to Friday’s semi-finals where they will meet a 16-7 Layton squad they beat 72-62 on Nov. 28.

While Pollard didn’t play in that November game, he’s ready for the Lancers.

“We played them at the beginning of the season and they got up early but we ended up winning,” Pollard said. “I think if we hit em early, get up 10-15 points, just hitting it fast like we do, I think they go away.”