You’d have to go all the way back to 2004 to find Bonneville High School’s last boys basketball region championship — the same year that Lakers’ senior Jake Williams and some of his fellow senior teammates were born.
On Friday night, that nearly 20-year-old drought came to an end.
With 2.5 seconds remaining in a tie ball game, Williams received a pass from teammate Joe Tesch, who had just corralled an offensive rebound, and buried a game-winning 3-pointer to hand Woods Cross a 54-51 defeat in Region 5’s de facto title game.
Williams’ shot capped off what ended up being six unanswered points from the Lakers over the final 3:36 of the game.
“I just saw Joe Tesch go up for that board. He fought his (butt) off all game, and when he kicked that ball out, I knew I had to put it in,” Wiliams said.
“We’ve been wanting this all season. We’ve been talking about it and everyone’s been doubting us, but I think (we are) the group of boys who deserved it.”
The Lakers certainly made the most of their title-winning moment, as players took turns cutting the net off the hoop where the game-winning shot found its way home.
The fact that the result came on senior night, in front of a nearly full-capacity home crowd, was just icing on the cake for the upperclassmen-heavy Bonneville squad.
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” Bonneville senior Carson Jones said. “When Jake shot (the game-winner), it looked like it was moving in slow motion, and when it went in, it felt like we had already won.
“I don’t know how to describe it. It was just a big-time shot.”
Following Williams’ shot and a few timeouts, Bonneville defended the full length of the court, forcing a shot from near midcourt from Woods Cross’ Jaxon Smith that came up short as the buzzer sounded.
Lakers’ players rushed the floor in celebration, and Williams even took his celebration into the student section, as he jumped into the arms of his fellow classmates.
Bonneville head coach Kyle Bullinger said ending the game, and the region season as a whole, in that fashion couldn’t have been more perfect.
“I can’t think of any better story than for Jake Williams to come in and hit that shot,” Bullinger said. “He brings the swagger to our team, and it was really rewarding to see him hit that shot.
“It was about as dramatic an ending that you can find for a region championship.”
Only four players recorded points for the Lakers, who used only a seven man rotation. Jones, whom Bullinger said should end up being the MVP of Region 5, finished with a team-high 15 points. Junior point guard Bo Dixon chipped in 14, while Tesch and Williams scored 13 and 10, respectively.
The victory avenged a defeat suffered at the hands of the Wildcats three weeks prior. Had the Lakers secured a win in the earlier matchup, the championship would’ve already been clinched, but instead, the teams collided in their final regular season game with a 7-2 region record.
The Lakers were able to limit Woods Cross junior Mason Bendinger to 17 points on the night after he dropped 24 on them in the previous matchup.
Bendinger was held to just five second-half points, which was especially impressive considering he scored 10 points in the fourth quarter alone to close out Woods Cross’ victory the last time the teams met.
Though he wasn’t able to find as much success in Friday night’s go-around, Bendinger still provided what ended up being the second-most highlight worthy play of the night when he jammed home an and-1 dunk midway through the second quarter to tie the game at 25.
The play ignited “Who’s your daddy?” chants from the Woods Cross student section.
“The guy is a beast,” Williams said of Bendinger. “He’s one of the better players, if not the best player, I’ve ever guarded.
“Late (in the second quarter) he put it right on my head, but we contained him the best we could. We scouted him all week because there’s no escaping players like him.”
The inside play of Bendinger combined with the outside prowess of Smith (15 points on three made 3s), required Bonneville to dig deep defensively late in the game, and its performance on that end of the floor, coupled with clutch plays on offense, allowed the Lakers to secure the title-clinching win.
“Woods Cross is unbelievably talented, and they showcased that tonight,” Bullinger said. “The game that we played (in Woods Cross) was very similar to this game. In that game their guys made plays, and tonight our guys made plays. … Credit to our kids for just continuing to battle.”