WEST JORDAN — In Tuesday's tightly contested Region 3 tilt in which neither Copper Hills nor West Jordan led by more than five until the final minutes, free throw shooting was the deciding factor and one team was vastly superior than the other.
Perhaps feeling more at ease on its home floor, West Jordan was outstanding from the line in the second half which proved to be the difference in a 60-49 victory over Copper Hills.
The Jaguars made 16-of-18 free throws in the second half and improved to 2-0 in Region 3 in advance of Friday's showdown against No. 1 Bingham.
"Hitting free throws is always the key in the fourth quarter, and that's what we did," said West Jordan guard Andre Ashton.
Copper Hills, meanwhile, was awful at the line. It made just 4-of-15 free throws in the second half, including nine straight misses to end the game as West Jordan pulled away for deceptively easy victory. Those struggles at the line could cost the Grizzlies a shot at the region title as they now sit at 0-2 in league play.
That's certainly not an issue for West Jordan, which had three players score in double figures led by sophomore Jordan Loveridge with 17.
Earlier in the season the youthful Jaguars might've struggled to win a game like Tuesday's, but they're starting to reap the benefits of a tough preseason schedule.
"We feel like we've played some pretty quality opponents, and most of them we've given ourselves a shot but we just made a few mistakes and did some things where it kind of got away from us," said West Jordan coach Scott Briggs. "So for us to get that win (tonight), we feel like we've taken a big step forward."
On two separate occasions in the first half Copper Hills went on a 6-0 run to open up a mini-cushion, but each time the Jaguars had a response — the latter was back-to-back jumpers by Jesse Herrin in the final minute of the half which put West Jordan back in front 24-23.
"The big thing tonight was we stopped it the last minute of the second quarter. I thought we hit a couple of key baskets to stop the bleeding," said Briggs.
Neither team shot particularly well in the third quarter, with West Jordan clinging to the 42-39 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The game remained tight early in the fourth but West Jordan gradually pulled away as Copper Hills failed to take advantage of cheap points. With his team trailing 44-43 with under six minutes remaining, Copper Hills' B.J. Caver missed the front end of a one-and-one, the first of nine straight missed free throws for the Grizzlies.
The dagger for Copper Hills was a three-point play by Loveridge with 2:01 remaining that put West Jordan ahead 54-47.