Competing for titles has become an expectation at Layton Christian Academy, and that expectation has a chance to be met once again this season.
The defending 2A champions secured a hard-fought 80-69 win over Juan Diego on Friday to secure yet another state championship game appearance, this time in the 3A classification.
LCA got the win despite a monster performance from Juan Diego sophomore Malick Diallo, who finished with 35 points and 20 rebounds in a losing effort.
LCA head coach Bobby Porter said that it took a complete team effort from the Eagles to dispatch Diallo — whom Porter said reminded him of a young Shawn Kemp — and the Soaring Eagle.
“We have a team and we tag the next person to come in, and it wears people down,” Porter said. “It was Malick versus LCA tonight, and a team will beat an individual any day.”
The Eagles worked as a team all night, especially on the offensive side of the floor, where they recorded 14 assists on 27 made baskets.
Layton Christian had four players score in double figures, led by Tyrese Lacey, who finished with 24 points to go along with five assists. The electric point guard thrived in transition, using his speed to get high-percentage buckets.
Trailing by two after a slow-starting first quarter, Porter said it was Lacey’s play that allowed LCA to retake control of the game.
“He is incredible,” Porter said. “He penetrated and made everyone around him better. I’ve coached a lot of guards in my 43-year career and he’s very, very special…All I can say is that I had a merry Christmas with that kid right there.”
Porter said the guard play of Timmie Olubisi, who finished with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists, perfectly complemented Lacey.
Olubisi showed off his hops, delivering two highlight-worthy dunks that brought the LCA-heavy crowd to its feet.
Championship appearances are a well-known commodity for the Eagles, and though they have the experience, Porter said that no team will outwork his side.
Though he is confident about his team’s work rate, it will be tested in the championship by the Grantsville Cowboys, who worked Manti in the evening’s later semifinal matchup.
Leading by as much as 24, the Cowboys cruised to a 65-45 win to advance to the championship after falling short in the semis last year.
The dominant win was refreshing for Grantsville after it sweated out a one point win over Ben Lomond in the quarterfinals.
“Everything was so disjointed yesterday, so to come out the way we did, attacking, hitting shots, sharing the ball and getting stops, I was really proud with how we responded,” Grantsville head coach Nate Austin said.
The Cowboys shot 61% from the field and led in nearly every statistical category.
Grantsville’s Killian Carter led all scorers with 21 points on 66% shooting, but Grantsville got offensive contributions from more than just one player.
Brigham Mulford and Tate Allred each recorded 13 points, while Gabe Mouritsen notched 11 for the Cowboys, who looked like a completely different side on offense.
“Our offense kind of got going and our guys were like, ‘Oh, we’re back. We’re hitting shots again,’” Austin said. “We’d normally like our defense to set the tone for us, but after 35 points the night before, we’ll take some offense for sure.”
A similar performance will be needed from Grantsville as it takes on an LCA side it is very familiar with.
The Cowboys finished 0-2 against the Eagles when the two teams faced in region play, although the latest of the two games was just a one point victory for LCA.
The two teams will share the floor
for a third time Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Dee Events Center.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Austin said. “It’s a game we’re going to have to play well in, but our kids are excited for the challenge. …It’s the biggest game of the year, and everything we’ve worked for, the wins, the losses, the practices, everything has been working towards this game, so it’ll be an awesome opportunity for these kids to have.”