Top seed Olympus dodged a major bullet in the 5A second round last week by rallying in the final minute to beat region foe East by three points after winning by double digits in both regular-season meetings.
The cliché that it’s hard to beat a team three times nearly became a harsh reality for the Titans.
Facing the exact same scenario in Wednesday’s quarterfinals at the Dee Events Center against region foe Brighton, Olympus took care of business much sooner.
Olympus opened up a double-digit lead by halftime, and it only dipped into single digits once in the second half. The team rolled to the 70-55 victory over Brighton for its third-straight semifinal appearance.
“It’s never easy to beat your region opponents three times,” said Olympus coach Matt Barnes. “I couldn’t be more proud of my kids. That’s the nature of how the game is, you’ve got to be tough and you’ve got to keep grinding and take what they’re giving. We did a nice job.”
Olympus beat Brighton by 16 and four points in the two regular-season meetings, but Barnes knows from experience in his 26 years as head coach at Olympus to throw all that out the window.
“I always talk about respecting your opponent. I don’t care what their record is, I don’t care what you’ve done before, you’ve got to respect them and you’ve got to come ready to play. I knew it was going to be a war and a dogfight,” said Barnes.
Olympus led 20-16 after the first quarter, but it opened things up with a 15-6 edge in the second quarter as it got out and ran in transition to build a 35-22 halftime lead.
The Titans finished the game with a 21-8 edge in points off turnovers — even though it committed one more turnover — and a 15-4 edge in fast-break points. They turned 11 turnovers into 21 points.
Dutch DowDell, who led Olympus with 20 points and eight rebounds, said it’s fun to be back in the semifinals after graduating so many pieces from last year’s stacked team.
“I just feel like this team is a little bit faster, a little bit more guard play and it’s just exciting to be in the same position as last year,” he said.
Olympus came into the game averaging nearly nine 3-pointers per game, but only made five on Wednesday. It shot well in the first half on 4-of-11 shooting, but it made just 1 of 10 after halftime including a stretch six straight misses during a three-minute stretch of the third quarter.
During that stretch, Brighton whittled away at the 18-point deficit, cutting it to a manageable 48-38 heading into the fourth.
Olympus made a concerted effort to attack the paint and get layups or free throws in the fourth quarter, which is where all 21 of its points came.
Brighton cut it to 58-49 at the 3:56 mark of the fourth quarter, and it even had a couple 3-pointer attempts to try and trim Olympus’ lead further, but it could never connect on the big shot to make its opponent sweat a bit.
Brighton’s Nash Matheson led all scorers in the with 27 points on 9-of-21 shooting.
Olympus freshman Gavin Lowe was the unsung hero in Wednesday’s win, recording 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and two rebounds.
“You’ve got to give Gavin Lowe a lot of credit. He’s a little freshman, but he doesn’t play like a freshman. He gets up and guards and hounds and puts a lot of pressure and he made a lot of great plays,” said Barnes.
The 15 points was just the fifth time Lowe has scored in double figures this season.
With the win, Olympus advances to Friday’s semifinals where it will face No. 4 seed Alta at 7 p.m.