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High school boys basketball: No. 1 Westlake runs winning streak to 13 straight behind career night from Keilan Torkornoo

Westlake’s Kaden Hoppins is fouled as he drives between Pleasant Grove’s Levi Boggess and Tanner Hanks in a boys basketball game at Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.
Westlake’s Kaden Hoppins is fouled as he drives between Pleasant Grove’s Levi Boggess and Tanner Hanks in a boys basketball game at Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Despite losing its leading scorer and rebounder to a torn ACL a week ago, top-ranked Westlake isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

With senior center Hunter Phillips watching from the bench in a knee brace, Westlake dominated the second half against visiting Pleasant Grove with suffocating defense as it rolled to a 73-62 victory on Friday to extend its winning streak to 13 straight.

“We have some guys that can put the ball in the basket, but we feel our defense is our bread and butter,” said Westlake coach Nate Carling.

A big reason for Westlake’s strong defense all season has been the presence of 6-foot-9 center Phillips patrolling the paint. He went down with a torn ACL two minutes into the Corner Canyon game last Friday, but fellow senior big man Keilan Torkornoo has picked up the slack and Westlake hasn’t skipped a beat with wins over Corner Canyon, American Fork and now Pleasant Grove.

At the midway point of Region 4 play Westlake has a two-game lead over American Fork and Lone Peak, and the first region title in school history is certainly within sight.

Carling always figured this year’s team would be good after going undefeated in summer ball. Since falling to region foe Corner Canyon in the championship game of the Corner Canyon Tournament of Championships back on Dec. 5, the Thunder haven’t lost since.

A big reason for the success was both Phillips and Torkornoo.

“The reason we’ve been so successful so far is we had that 1-2 punch, it was just relentless cause you’d go Hunter, Keelan, Hunter, Keelan, and they’re fresh all game long,” said Carling.

Torkornoo played well against both Corner Canyon and American Fork in the first games without Phillips, but Friday was his breakout game.

In a great interior matchup between Torkornoo and Pleasant big man Isaac Vaha, the emerging Westlake contributor stood out scoring a career-high 21 points.

“Keelan really stepped up. He’s waited his turn cause he’s been in (Hunter’s) shadow a long time,” said Carling.

Even though Westlake ended up winning comfortably, the first half told a much different story.

Pleasant Grove was dialed in early, making 14 of 21 shots in the first half including six 3-pointers to take a 42-37 halftime lead.

Jordan Ross made four of those first-half 3-pointers, finishing with a team-high 21 points.

“We really pride ourselves defensively so to give up 42 first half points, not very proud of that. So challenged them at halftime and I think they scored 20 the second half. Really aggressive and alert defensively,” said Carling.

After shooting 66% in the first half, Pleasant Grove struggled to shoot just 29% in the second half.

Midway through the third quarter Westlake seized its first lead since the score was 2-0 just after the opening tip. It never trailed the rest of the way, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Kaleb Furey and Torkornoo helped stretch the lead to nine early in the fourth quarter.

Westlake had great offensive balance on Friday like it always does, with Noah Madsen scoring 15, Furey chipping in with 13 and Noah McCord adding 12 to go along with Torkornoo’s 21.