Orem • The result had been decided and the fans were streaming for the exits as music began blasting from the speakers. The Lone Peak Knights strode confidently off the court and into the postgame locker room in the corner of the Orem gym.
This is what they'd come here for. They had come to the Great Western Shootout to walk off the court victors over a good team because they are the Lone Peak Knights, and that's what the Lone Peak Knights do.
That the Knights had done it two nights in a row returned a sense of normalcy. They lost their first game of the tournament Thursday to Overland (Colo.) but handled Bishop O'Connell (Va.) on Friday. The swagger had returned after beating Orem 71-63 on Saturday.
"Being at Lone Peak, that's what we're all about come out here and fight and play the best teams," sophomore guard Frank Jackson said.
Though the final point separation between Orem and Lone Peak was in single digits Saturday, the game never was in doubt after the first quarter. Star guard T.J. Haws dazzled, scoring 29 points. Time and again he shot from the wing, from the corner, from in close and most went in, quieting a raucous Orem student section that was persistent in trying to get under his skin.
Jackson and guard Zach Frampton also filled the stat sheet, combining for 30 points. And when Haws is hot and he gets help from his supporting cast, few teams on the Knights' schedule seem equipped to beat them. When the Knights also mix in tenacious defense, perhaps nobody is.
"I thought we played four quarters of defense against Bishop O'Connell, and we played about three and a half against Orem," Lewis said. "We're getting better because the first game of the year, we played maybe about a quarter of defense."
The Knights still are far from perfect. They do not have the aura of invincibility that seemed to shield last season's team. They've shown their offense can run cold when Haws has an off night, a flaw that presents major problems when the smothering defense isn't there.
"We're a jump-shooting team at the end of the day," Lewis said. "When you're a jump-shooting team, consistency isn't going to be great sometimes, so you have to rely on your defense."
Despite the flaws and they are there, in the open, easy to see the Knights showed Saturday that they still will be a major factor in the Class 5A title chase. Because, after all, they still are the Lone Peak Knights, and that still means something. And it will until another team from Utah can play 32 minutes of basketball against them and prove that it doesn't.
Said Jackson after the game: "Our first couple games were a little rusty, but I think we're getting in the groove of things now."