Box Score

Westlake had a good regular season, but by no means a great one, finishing tied for fourth in Region 4 a year after winning the league title.

Coach Nate Carling attributes some of that underachievement to the disappointment of coming up short in last year’s 6A state championship as the No. 1 seed.

“It’s kind of hard once you were there the year before, you kind of spend the whole season just thinking about getting back. And maybe that caused us to not be our best throughout the season, but you knew as we were approaching (the playoffs) the excitement built,” said Carling.

In Tuesday’s 6A quarterfinals at the University of Utah, the eighth-seeded Thunder played one of their best games of the season, building an early lead on No. 1 Bingham and never letting it go in the statement 75-63 win.

Westlake and Bingham didn’t play each other during the regular season, but Carling said Bingham blitzed his team twice during the summer and getting over that hump in the players required a tremendous effort on both ends of the court.

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The difference was the second quarter, as Westlake outscored Bingham 17-9 to take a 33-24 lead into the half. Westlake shot 64% in the quarter. It was a lead that never dipped below seven the rest of the way, and stayed in double digits nearly the entire time.

“We just had confidence, that’s basically what it all came down to, just a belief that we could win and we’re good enough. And honestly, being in this situation a year ago and some of them playing in state tournament games, but everybody there and being along for the ride, the moment just wasn’t too big for us. I think that really helped us,” said Carling.

Westlake spent a good chunk of the fourth quarter at the free-throw line as Bingham tried to scrap back in the game; the Thunder connected on 18 of 26 in the fourth to hold onto the lead.

Kaden Hoppins went 10 of 12 from the line, finishing with 18 points and seven assists, while Dylan Jones led the way offensively with 20 points.

Hoppins was one of Westlake’s role players last year, and he’s been a calming presence at point all year for the Thunder. Carling said that calming influence was key down the stretch Tuesday.

“It helps to have a really good point guard, late in games that can take care of the ball and get it where it needs to go, knock in free throws,” said Carling. “I thought Kaden Hoppins was tremendous. He played a lot for us last year. He kept his composure, he never got sped up, he never panicked, it was his leadership and his communication with the other players.”

Bingham was led by Ace Reiser’s 16 points, with Kameron Dupaix, Luke Leatherwood and Tyler Newbold all scoring 11. Nobody on Bingham could ever get in an offensive rhythm in the second quarter to threaten Westlake.

With the win, Westlake advances to Thursday’s semifinals and will face No. 4 Corner Canyon at 7 p.m. at the University of Utah.