Survival is the name of the game at this point in the season, and Piute did during a game against Water Canyon Wednesday night in Richfield.
The Thunderbirds pulled out a 52-40 against a scrappy Water Canyon, earning a spot in the state 1A quarterfinals.
“A win is a win,” said coach Eric Jessen, in his fifth year at the helm of Piute’s boys’ team. While the pressure is on as Piute won last year’s state title, Jessen said they have to take it a game at a time.
“What matters right now is that you survive and advance,” Jessen said.
The number three seed Piute boys built up an 11-2 edge over Water Canyon early in the first quarter. However, that edge soon evaporated as Water Canyon’s Jonny Timpson, David Barlow and Patrick Hammon all took turns scoring to pull them to within one point, ending the quarter 11-10.
“We gotta give credit to Water Canyon,” Jessen said. “We uncharacteristically didn’t move without the ball the way we usually do, we weren’t turning it as quick as we should have been.”
Piute was able to go on a 10-point jaunt that gave the T-birds a 24-14 lead at the half.
“We have the ability to get out and get after it,” Jessen said. He said his team is going to have to focus more on rebounding, especially at the foul line, if the T-birds want to continue to move forward in the tournament.
“We gotta get better,” Jessen said.
In the third quarter, Piute continued to control the momentum of the game, but suffered a setback when Kole Westwood left the game.
“It hurt us when we lost the Westwood kid because he’s so valuable defensively,” Jesson said. “I can put him in any position on any guy.”
He’d not only been vital defensively, but also racked up 10 points for Piute.
“He’s a tough kid,” Jesson said.
Jaxxon Westwood helped lead the T-birds’s scoring effort with 13 points, including two of the team’s three 3-pointers. Kel Blood also added 13 points to Piute’s tally, hitting the team’s other downtowner, while Brooks Dalton posted 12 in the win. Water Canyon’s Aaron Barlow was the top scoring player of the game with 14 points.
“I’ve been happy with them all year,” Jesson said. “The important thing is the win. Now we just have to go home and get ready for Valley.”
Valley and Piute will face off at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.