The motto for this season’s West Jordan boys basketball squad is “Blue Strong.”
The phrase honors their former head coach, Mason Sawyer, and his son, Blue, who lost five family members — including Sawyer’s wife and his other two kids — during a car crash on I-15 back in July.
The Jaguars have patches on their jerseys to remind them of the motto and the family they’re playing for this season.
In Wednesday’s preseason matchup at home against Alta (7-4), the Jaguars likely made the Sawyer family proud, with a 58-52 victory over the Hawks to improve to 7-3 on the year.
“That (win) just showed the heart of my team and how resilient they are,” West Jordan head coach Christian Wouden said. “They don’t give up. They’re just tough, tough kids.”
Trailing by as much as 16 points in the second quarter, the Jaguars rallied to hold Alta to just 18 second half points and complete the comeback victory.
Wouden said that it was just a matter of increased intensity from his players that resulted in West Jordan outsourcing the Hawks by 14 in the second half.
The Jaguars keep a unique stat they call “kills,” which are three defensive stops in a row. After having virtually no “kills” in the first half — especially in the second quarter where Alta went on a 9-0 run — the team was notching them left and right over the final two quarters of play.
Part of the second half success from West Jordan can be attributed to its efforts to turn the Hawks — who played at an electric pace in the first half — into more of a half-court team offensively.
“We definitely had to stop the transition and I think we were able to wear them down as we kept our intensity going,” Wouden said. “(Alta is) just such a tough team. They’re long and athletic. … So it’s a big win for us.”
After holding Alta to just six points in the third quarter, the Jaguars took their first lead since the game’s opening seconds when Boston Farmer hit two free throws with six seconds left in the period to give West Jordan a one point advantage heading into the final quarter.
The strong defense continued in the fourth quarter, paving the way for West Jordan to outscore Alta 17-12 in the game’s final eight minutes and remain in the lead until the final buzzer.
The length of Alta gave West Jordan issues at many points throughout the game. Though they significantly improved on the glass in the second half, the Jaguars still were outrebounded 29-25 over the course of the game, which resulted in plenty of second-chance points for the Hawks.
“We had to limit their offensive rebounds and that was something we were vocal about at halftime,” Wouden said. “We had to put bodies on them. We’re not the biggest team out there, but hopefully we’re the most feisty.”
Offensively, the Jaguars were led by seniors Logan Prince (20 points, nine rebounds), Esafe Taufahema (17 points, four rebounds) and Farmer (10 points), but received contributions from each player in their rotation, including junior Gage Muffet who drilled a three-pointer to cut Alta’s lead to one late in the third despite averaging just over one point per game this season.
Wouten said that Prince, who came into Wednesday averaging a team-leading 19 points per game, has been a critical player for the Jaguars on both ends of the court and expects that to continue as the season goes on.
“Logan can influence and affect a game in ways other than his scoring,” Wouten said. “Teams are going to start focusing on him more and more, but I told him that just having him on the floor makes the whole team better, with his rebounding, passing and his defense.”
After somewhat struggling last year and finishing with a losing record, it appears that the experience from last season has paid off for seniors like Prince, Taufahema and Farmer. Through their first 10 games, the Jaguars find themselves just two wins shy of last season’s win total.
The Jaguars will continue to play this season with their “Blue Strong” motto, and Wouten said he’s excited to see where it will take them with region play on the horizon.
“I’m extremely happy with our progression and where we’re going,” Wouten said. “Our goal is to improve everyday and I think we can do really well in our region.”