Box score

West and Salem Hills went toe to toe Thursday throughout the second half in a tight, competitive 5A second round game.

The first half was an entirely different story.

West’s pressing defense wreaked havoc in the opening half, speeding up Salem Hills and forcing 15 first-half turnovers, momentum that snowballed quickly as it built a 20-point lead on its way to the 62-49 victory.

“We knew they were a good team, and we have a lot of respect for them and their region. We knew we were gonna have to play aggressive and take some chances and we’re really proud of the girls,” said West coach Olossa Solovi.

“That’s who we are, we’re a pressure team and we’re going to try and get up in your face and hopefully it goes our way and today it did.”

With the win over No. 10 seed Salem Hills, the seventh-seeded Panthers advance to Saturday’s 5A quarterfinals at the University of Utah and will face No. 2 seed Wasatch at 5:50 p.m.

West’s defense ended up forcing Salem Hills into 24 turnovers, and even though the visitors cut down on the miscues in the second half in front of a rowdy home crowd, the closest they cut the lead to was eight points in the second half.

“We were really encouraging them to stay aggressive. Every good shot you’re passing up, the next shot is probably going to be a forced one,” said Solovi.

“That’s kind of what happened in the middle of the season, we kind of got tight when games got tight.”

Sophomore guard Kylee Falatea led the way for West with 21 points, with Laite Latu scoring numerous key buckets in the paint in the second half to thwart Salem Hills’ momentum on several occasions.

Madisen King scored 14 points for the Skyhawks, with Brooke Warren chipping in 12 and Hattie Parkinson adding 11.

Salem Hills ended up outscoring West 37-30 over the final 18 minutes, but the hole it had dug for itself was too big to climb out of.

After Salem Hills jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, over the next 11 minutes West forced 15 turnovers and ripped of a 32-8 run to seize a 32-12 lead with three minutes left in the first half.

Some of the turnovers came against West’s full-court press, while others were forced by West’s halfcourt pressure defense.

During one stretch late in the half, Salem Hills turned the ball over on four straight possessions with the lead swelling from 25-12 to 32-12 in less than a minute.

Salem Hills seemed to finally settle down in the final couple minutes of the first half as King and Parkinson each hit 3-pointers to key an 8-2 run to close the half.

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Salem Hills was much more efficient offensively in the second half minimizing its turnovers, but West always seemed to come up with a timely bucket to prevent a big Skyhawks’ surge.

Tia Pan came off the bench in the third quarter and buried back-to-back 3-pointers, and Latu’s interior presence was just as critical as she scored 10 of her 12 points after halftime.

“We knew they were going to make a run. We even told the young ladies they may even bring this down and tie this up, so just continue to be aggressive and the shots will be there,” said Solovi.

The closest Salem Hills cut the lead in the second half was 50-42 on a Parkinson layup at the 5:30 mark of the fourth quarter, but West responded with a 3-pointer from another reserve, Jaida Lavatai, pushing the lead back to double digits and it never dipped below nine points the rest of the game.

A large, passionate crowd no doubt helped West with momentum throughout the game, something Solovi said his team is really grateful for.

“West is a different atmosphere. They love their sports, they love their schools,” said Solovi. “West is obviously the oldest school and the biggest alumni, and there’s a lot of pride in this community.

“It’s an exciting environment and we remind these guys this isn’t normal, you know. You go to other schools, it’s obviously not normal, especially for girls. You should be very proud they want to come watch it, so the least you can do is leave it all on the line.”