With under three minutes to go in the second round of the 6A boys state lacrosse tournament, things looked bleak for No. 9 Westlake on the road against No. 8 Bingham.
That’s when Westlake junior attacker Hunter Hernandez took matters into his own hands, leading the Thunder to a 6-5 comeback victory.
Both teams entered the meeting following first round byes. The game marked the first time the two schools had met in lacrosse, with Westlake ultimately earning a dramatic overtime victory in the schools’ inaugural contest.
“This was a huge game,” Westlake head coach Daniel Horne said. “One of the biggest, best matchups of the playoffs frankly.”
The Thunder certainly turned it into an entertaining matchup. With 2:33 left in the fourth quarter, Hernandez scored a game tying goal to force overtime. Coming into Thursday’s contest, Hernandez led the Thunder in goals scored with 59, good for eighth in the state. But the prolific attacker’s heroics had just begun.
With under a minute to play, Hernandez took advantage of a Bingham defense that was missing Christian Jones – the Miners starting goalkeeper. Moments before, Jones had been flagged for an illegal body check.
While Bingham played a man down, Hernandez scored the game winning goal, propelling his team into Saturday’s quarterfinals.
Horne acknowledged the impact Jones’ absence had on the end of the game. “He’s the general of that defense. The backup goalie made some great saves. … (But) without Jones in there in that overtime, it showed.”
The Thunder’s only other lead came in the first quarter, when midfielder Lucas Wise caught a pass in front of the goal and found the back of the net to give his team a 2-1 advantage.
Bingham regained the lead in the second quarter, but never could extend the lead past one point. The Thunder stuck around, giving themselves a chance down the stretch.
Hernandez led Westlake with three scores on nine shots on goal. Senior attacker Ethan Boren chipped in two goals of his own, helping keep the season alive for the Thunder.
“We expected a close tight game,” Horne said. “Bingham is an incredible team. … (I’m) proud of our boys.
“We have a phrase that we use, ‘All grit, no quit.’ We’re driven by all grit, no quit. So if you’re down, find a way. You claw your way back in and fight your way back. That’s just the culture we’ve tried to build here.”
Westlake showed a lot of fight Thursday night. After falling in the Division B state championship game to Alta a season ago, the Thunder will need that fight to keep their hopes alive of having another long tournament run this year.
Westlake’s victory over Bingham sends the school into Saturday’s quarterfinals where it will face a fellow Region 4 foe. The No. 9 seed will take on the winner of No. 1 Corner Canyon and No. 17 Pleasant Grove. Westlake went 0-2 against the Chargers but 2-0 against the Vikings. The quarterfinal contest is scheduled to begin at 1 pm.