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6A basketball playoffs: Experience, shotmaking pay off as Syracuse boys beat Farmington 63-60

By Patrick Carr - Prep Sports Reporter | Feb 24, 2023

Photo supplied, Kevin Hansen

Syracuse guard Kaden Ericksen (2) drives against a Farmington defender in a 6A second-round playoff game Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, in Syracuse.

SYRACUSE — As the high degree of difficulty in shotmaking during Friday’s Syracuse-Farmington boys basketball playoff game went higher and higher in the fourth quarter, a wide-open 3-pointer served as the final swing of the pendulum.

Carter Semrow’s wide-open, corner 3 in front of the Titans’ bench wasn’t exactly easy, given the circumstances of it coming with 30 seconds left in a 60-60 tied game.

Semrow had two feet on the ground and his eyes locked on the rim; the shot went through the net and gave Syracuse a 63-60 lead that survived three separate last-gasp shots by Farmington in the final seconds, prompting a raucous celebration by the home fans as the Titans moved on to Tuesday’s 6A state quarterfinals at Weber State’s Dee Events Center.

It’s the second straight year the Titans have gone to the quarterfinals. Last year, they went as the No. 18 seed after upsetting both No. 15 Lone Peak and No. 2 Davis on their way to the quarterfinals at the Huntsman Center.

This year, last year’s experience paid off not only in the regular season, where the Titans (15-7) set a school record for single-season wins and finished third in Region 1, but also throughout a tense playoff game.

“We’ve been there before and we’ve played in big games with big crowds and a lot of energy. I think we’ve been preparing for this all season, so we were locked in and I think we’ve done this a few times so we were just ready for it,” senior Kaden Ericksen said.

Ericksen led all scorers with 22 points, weathering an ice-cold start to eventually provide key baskets down the stretch for the Titans.

The play where Semrow made his game-winning 3 was actually drawn up for Ericksen, but Farmington came out in a zone defense, Semrow cut right-to-left along the baseline, two defenders got jammed under the basket and Semrow drained the open shot.

“I feel great, man, I feel lots of energy, lots of adrenaline, I don’t know. It’s crazy, can’t put into words,” Semrow said.

Hardly anything separated the two teams throughout the game, which was expected given they split a pair of single-digit contests in the regular season. No team led by more than eight points. The lead changed seven times in the fourth quarter and was tied three other times.

As Syracuse coach Mike Russell noted, the Titans were well prepared for a close game. Of their 21 regular-season games, 12 were decided by single digits and they went 7-5 in those games.

“It’s tough to express how I feel. I think I’m really proud and I’m really happy for our guys just because, you know, it’s been — I’ve been here two years and from day one, they bought in,” Russell said. “And a lot of these guys played last year, a lot of our main guys, and they’ve just always worked so hard and been so driven, and so for me to see them have success means everything. That’s what coaching means, what makes it so great.”

Farmington’s (15-9) game, and season, was a story of hot and cold. Sometimes, the Phoenix couldn’t miss a shot. Other times, even the layups found a way to take an unlucky bounce.

Farmington began Friday’s game by scoring on five of its first six possessions to take an early 12-7 lead. Syracuse responded in both the short term (an 8-0 run) and the long term (a 28-24 halftime lead).

The Titans twice led by eight points in the third quarter, appearing to be close to putting a lid on the game. Farmington got hot again, closing the third quarter on a 6-0 run with baskets by Cole Johnson and Paul Beattie to trail only 41-40 going to the fourth.

Beattie’s free throws at the 3:55 mark gave Farmington a 52-51 lead. Ericksen made a tough basket (53-52), then got a steal and a fastbreak (55-52).

Buckets by Beattie (56-55), Semrow (58-55) and Farmington’s Ethan Atkinson (58-57), followed by free throws from Syracuse’s Kane King (60-57) set the stage for Johnson to hit a deep, stepback 3 for Farmington and tie the game at 60 with 53.9 seconds left.

After Semrow’s 3 gave the Titans the lead, the Phoenix got three good looks at the basket. Beattie missed a short one, a rare miss for him on a night where had 18 points, but Farmington still had the ball on an out-of-bounds play with 13.1 seconds left.

Johnson (he led FHS with 19 points) missed a 3, but that went out of bounds off of Brevin Hamblin, giving Farmington yet another shot from a sideline out-of-bounds play with 5.2 seconds left.

Ethan Atkinson’s 3 from the left side hit the back of the rim and bounced to Hamblin for the rebound. Hamblin’s momentum took him out of bounds again, but this time the game was over.

“I thought our shot at the end to tie it was a high-percentage shot,” Farmington coach Kasey Walkenhurst said. “We preach all the time, there’s only one mistake you can make in the end of a game like that and that’s not getting a shot off. We got a good one, it just didn’t go in.”

Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at pcarr@standard.net, Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.


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