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6A boys basketball tournament: Clutch defense propels Layton into 6A semifinals

During a two-and-a-half week stretch back in Region 1 play this season when Layton lost three games all decided in the final minute, it was looking less and less like the Lancers had the “stuff” of a legitimate state title contender.

Whatever was lacking in those region losses, however, was very much on display in the 6A quarterfinals at the University of Utah on Thursday.

Layton overcame an early six-point deficit in the fourth quarter, rallying past Westlake for the 68-65 victory to advance to Friday’s 6A semifinals.

“We knew we could pull it out, but we needed stops, that was the big thing. We buckled down,” said Layton guard Truman Brown.

Those stops came in bunches in the fourth quarter after Cooper Mattson put Westlake ahead 52-46 with a lay-up on the opening possession of the quarter.

Conner Hill and Brown were the catalysts of that defensive pressure, finishing the game with seven and four steals respectively.

Hill had a clutch steal and lay-up with 5:11 remaining putting Layton ahead 56-54, one of 12 lead changes in the game.

Westlake regained the 59-58 cushion on a Boston Chappell 3-pointer with 4:11 remaining, but that was the last Thunder lead of the game.

Layton’s defense got stops on four straight possessions over the next three minutes, and at the other end continued its second-half offensive efficiency stretching the lead to 65-59 on a corner 3-pointer from Brown with 1:18 remaining.

“We joke about if you shoot that you’ve got to make it in that crunch time. Luckily it went in, and that felt awesome to extend the lead a little bit,” said Brown.

After building the six-point lead Layton only made 3 of 8 free throws in the final minute, but still held on for the win.

“This group is a veteran group, they’ve been around for a while and have played together for a while. We’ve had those situations in region play which really prepped us for this,” said Layton coach Kelby Miller.

With the win, Layton advances to Friday’s semifinals at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Utah.

Westlake shot 58 percent in the first half to open up a 34-28 halftime lead, surprising considering it conceded nine offensive rebounds.

The problem for Layton was it couldn’t finish off those extra possessions, missing numerous shots at the rim.

“Obviously we had plenty of opportunities around the rim that we didn’t capitalize on, and it boiled down to being more physical and finishing around the hoop and finishing with confidence,” said Miller.

Collin Jeppson, in particular, was more clinical at the rim scoring 10 of his 19 points in the second half to go along with his seven rebounds. Chase Potter and Skyler Turner each added 10 points for the Lancers.

Westlake’s Mattson led all scorers with 20 points, while Jared McGregor added 15 and Andy Van Mondfrans chipped in with 12, the trio accounting for eight of Westlake’s 10 3s.