SALT LAKE CITY – The Davis Darts were mere seconds away from being eliminated from the state 5A basketball playoffs at the hands of the Copper Hills Grizzlies Thursday night at the Huntsman Center.
But a clutch lay-up at the buzzer by Jaydon Ryan pushed the game into overtime, and the Darts converted 10-of-14 free throws in the extra frame to escape with a 66-62 win and a berth in Friday’s semi-finals.
“I can’t say enough about what Copper Hills did tonight,” said Darts coach Jay Welk. “I thought their game plan was so well-crafted, and that they did well to take things away from us. We feel very lucky to win that game.”
One of the key players the Grizzlies locked on all game long was Jesse Wade. Wade finished the game with 15 points, but was chased around the court by Copper Hills throughout.
Conversely, Abel Porter was able to keep the Darts in the game with 11 first half points, and Davis led 27-24 after the first half.
The lead could have been six points, but a half court heave by Zac Hoffman of Copper Hills kept the Grizzlies in the game entering the second half.
“We didn’t handle the end of the first half well,” Welk said. “We’re up six at that point and it gets stolen, and then they bank in that half-court shot. Instead of sticking a hand in or getting in front of him, we let him get the shot off. I thought we were a bit lazy there.”
Welk also said the shot gave a boost to the Grizzlies, calling it a “great momentum builder” for Copper Hills going into the second half.
The Grizzlies immediately took advantage of its good fortune to end the first half, scoring six straight points to take the lead. All three baskets came from Porter Hawkins, who finished his scoring run with a steal and a lay-up to give Copper Hills a 30-27 lead.
Copper Hills scored 18 points in the third quarter, holding Davis to 11 and taking a four point lead into the fourth.
Preston Sanchez of Copper Hills gave Davis fits through the entire second half, scoring 16 of his 18 game points in the second half and overtime before fouling out.
Sanchez was also perfect from the free-throw line, going 10-for-10 in the game.
Two clutch baskets by Elijah Kletzli and the buzzer-beating lay-up by Ryan swung all the momentum back to the Darts going into the overtime, and Davis’s shooting prowess at the free-throw line earned them with Pleasant Grove in the semi-finals Friday night.
Porter scored 17 points, and Kletzli scored 16 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to finish with a double-double.
Tip off for Friday’s game is 5:50 p.m.