WOODS CROSS — Even though the new RPI ranking system will seed teams into the upcoming state 5A boys basketball tournament, there is still a lot of excitement generated by winning a region title.
“You should have been in the locker room about five minutes ago; it’s a big deal,” Woods Cross coach Jeff Jorgensen said. “We set a goal for this four, five months ago.”
Mission accomplished, as the Wildcats opened up a huge first half lead, held off a furious Bountiful run in the second half and captured the Region 5 crown with a convincing 77-60 victory Friday night.
“We got ourselves in a little bit of a bind five games ago — lost two games — but these guys banded together and wanted to accomplish that goal and damn it, they did it,” Jorgensen said. “(Bountiful) started to get back in it, but every run they made, we answered.”
The Wildcats led 44-23 with 1:41 left in the second quarter, but Bountiful went on an 8-1 run to close the half, capped by a half-court bank shot by Camron Chism to beat the buzzer.
Bountiful’s (14-10 overall, 7-3 Region 5) run continued into the third period and the gap narrowed to 47-36 before a key layup by Tyler Roberts kept the lead at double digits and banished the Braves threat.
“We go play by play; we don’t overthink it. We knew exactly what we had to do and we did it,” Roberts said.
Roberts rallied in the second half with nine of his 16 points on the night, recovering from a shot to the mouth suffered in the first half that shelved him.
“I caught a nice little upper cut elbow from (Robert) Whaley and split my tongue open, but it’s alright, we’re region champs, baby,” Roberts said. “I had blood on my jersey one time so I had to come out and another time there was too much blood in my mouth and they had to pull me out.”
Jake Howe led the Wildcats (17-5, 8-2) with 19 points, including four 3-pointers, and Quaid Knell added 11 on a trio of treys to help keep the cross-town rival Braves at bay.
“It’s what we always dreamed of. We’ve been playing together our whole lives,” Roberts said. “We’re good friends with them, everyone in this stadium knows each other. We’ve grown up together. That was the funnest game. You couldn’t dream up a better scenario.”
Whaley had a monster game for the Braves, pouring in 26 points while bouncing off bodies deep in the post, while Chism tallied 13 with three 3-pointers.
“I expect to get hit. I get hit hard and just have to play through it,” Whaley said. “We switched things up in the second half but couldn’t capitalize on it. They just kept hitting shots.”
The RPI seedings will soon make both teams refocus for the tournament but, for now, the Wildcats are on a Rocky Mountain High.
“It’s fun for these guys, watching their excitement, their enthusiasm is the reward,” Jorgensen said.