No. 18 Syracuse scrapped its way to win just its second state tournament game since 2013 in a 54-45 triumph over No. 15 Lone Peak in the first round of the 6A postseason Wednesday.
“It’s great for our program that we could get that win,” first year Syracuse head coach Mike Russell said. “I’m just really happy and proud of our guys for finding a way to win.”
The Titans were aided by a big fourth quarter shot from senior guard Brandon Clark. With the game tied and right at its tipping point, Clark launched and scored a deep 3-pointer just in front of his bench. The shot gave Syracuse control of the game and the Titans never trailed again.
“That was great just to have him hit that shot,” Russell said. “I think that was what gave us a shot in the arm.”
The Titans scored 19 points in the final quarter, outscoring the Knights 12-3 down the stretch. Despite missing nine free throws in the final eight minutes, Syracuse did enough to take down Lone Peak.
After acknowledging the missed free throws, Russell focused on how his team got things done in the end. “We just felt like if we made enough plays then we’d have a chance,” he said. “I think that’s what it came down to: who makes the most plays.”
Making plays for Syracuse was junior forward Kaden Ericksen who ended the night with 22 points – all but two coming in the final three quarters. Brock Williams and Brevin Hamblin both scored in double figures as well, adding 12 points and 10 points respectively.
The Titans’ defeat of Lone Peak brings the Knights’ season to an end, dropping the 15-seed to 10-11 on the year. It marks the first time in Lone Peak’s history it will go four straight seasons without a boys basketball state title.
With the victory, Syracuse moves on to the second round of postseason play where it will match up on the road with No. 2 Davis Friday. The Darts won the 2021 6A state tournament and have proved to be one of the favorites to take the title again this year.
Playing in the same region, Syracuse and Davis already met twice this season with both games ending in Darts’ victories. Russell knows that his team will have to play better than it did in those two defeats.
“Davis is such a good program,” he said. “The thing that I think we’ve gained from playing them two times is some confidence, even though we haven’t won. We’ve played them close. We’ve had chances. To beat them, you have to knock down shots and play a really clean game and take care of the ball.”
Syracuse hopes it got all its jitters out on Wednesday before its third shot at a well-rested Davis squad. With only one loss on the year, the Darts earned a first round bye ahead of their clash with the Titans.
Friday’s showdown is set to begin at 7 p.m.