TJ Haws looked into the Huntsman Center stands, screamed in happiness and raised four fingers.
In that moment Saturday evening, even the scoreboard clock captured the numerology of it all. Exactly 1:44 remained in the Class 5A state championship game, and Haws and Lone Peak’s program were firmly entrenched in Utah high school basketball history — No. 1, for a fourth consecutive March.
The Knights’ 84-66 victory over neighboring Pleasant Grove was just the usual coronation, the victory lap they’ve come to enjoy in championship games. But this title was earned to a degree that topped the other state tournament experiences in Haws’ four-year career, and his emotional response said everything.
Haws plays almost dispassionately on the court, but that wonderful mixture of joy and relief spilled out of him as he walked toward the bench and aggressively hugged every teammate, coach and manager.
He’d scored 29 points, making eight three-pointers, yet that was only part of his story during an amazing week in this building. When it was all over, he could say with a wry smile, "I don’t know what it feels like not to win it."
He almost found out Thursday or Friday. All you could ask of the 5A field was to make Haws work for his fourth championship, and Bingham and Davis definitely did so — in a double-overtime classic in the quarterfinals and a tough battle in the semis. What he did to get Lone Peak to this point was the remarkable part, and Saturday’s dominant performance by his team was just the capstone of his phenomenal career.
"I’m the most fortunate coach in the state, there’s no question about that," said Lone Peak’s Quincy Lewis. "I mean, this guy is sensational. He’s very coachable. And I don’t think there’s any doubt … that he’s as good or better than any other player who’s ever played in the state."
Four championships make a fairly convincing case. Whatever disclaimers anyone may cite about what creates Lone Peak’s dynasty, the truth is that Haws delivered four trophies at Utah’s highest level, starting while he was attending Timberline Junior High as a ninth-grader. That’s an untouchable distinction.
And he ended his career by beating a Pleasant Grove team that three weeks ago handed the Knights their first loss in Utah in two years. The Vikings were overwhelmed Saturday, just like American Fork, Brighton and Alta in Haws’ previous state title games. These schools are located only 6 miles apart in northern Utah County, but PG couldn’t come anywhere near the Knights in this setting. With guards Zach Frampton and Haws combining for 36 points, Lone Peak took a 47-29 halftime lead. Maybe this was not quite like Haws’ personally outscoring Brighton 22-17 in the first half in 2012, but it had a similar look.
Haws just laughed that day when someone suggested he was halfway to four titles. Wouldn’t you know, he finished the historic achievement two years later.
An hour after the game, Haws slung an equipment bag over his shoulder and walked through the Huntsman Center tunnel. Scheduled to begin a church mission next month, he’ll resume his career in two more years when he reunites with former Lone Peak teammates Nick Emery and Eric Mika at BYU.
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