Ogden – One afternoon in January, Rylan Jones sat in the Olympus High School bleachers after practice and talked eagerly about his upcoming Utah basketball career, with this disclaimer: He enjoys prep basketball so much that he would play for the Titans forever, if he could.
As of halftime Thursday night, Jones' Olympus career was in danger of ending prior to March. The Titans trailed Timpanogos by 10 points.
Jones and his teammates radically altered the game in the second half, on the way to a 62-42 victory in the Class 5A quarterfinals at the Dee Events Center. The 6-foot-1 guard scored 15 points during Olympus' 26-4 run to begin the half, including two long, pull-up, transition 3-pointers on consecutive possessions that tied the game.
Jones had gone nearly 19 minutes without a basket, missing a layup early in the second half (“brutal,” he said), before he banked in a shot and got going. “I just thought, you know what, it's like Steph Curry and those guys, they see one go in, they're shooting that baby as many times as they can,” Jones said. “That's kind of how shooters go.”
There was no stopping the Titans. They outscored Timpanogos 46-16 in the second half and Jones finished with 22 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, plus five assists, five rebounds and five assists as Olympus (22-2) earned a semifinal date Friday vs. Corner Canyon.
“He’s amazing,” said Olympus coach Matt Barnes. “We’ll miss that kid.”
Ute fans will enjoy him, as he joins a program that includes his father, Ute director of basketball operations Chris Jones. The book on Rylan Jones is he focuses on what he’s doing at the moment, and he hopes that includes two more games with Olympus – and another state title.
“I think he has an appreciation for that,” Chris Jones said, “because he knows that college is so much more of a business. High school is just fun.”
Jones had posted 27 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals in a first-round victory over Woods Cross. But then the Titans struggled in the first half Thursday, as Timpanogos milked the clock, executed well and played good half-court defense.
“Rylan makes everybody better around him; that's the reality,” Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak said this week. “He's a really solid point guard; makes the right play the majority of times. When he makes a mistake, I kind of catch myself and go, 'That's not like Rylan.' ”
It happened against the Timberwolves. Jones committed three turnovers in the first half. But then he forced a turnover on the first possession of the third quarter, as the Titans succeeded in speeding up the game.
“It just sets the tone, that we weren't just going to let them methodically take the time off the clock,” Jones said.
The Titans’ defense rattled their opponents, who had gone 11 of 16 from the field in the first half. Timpanogos went 4 of 20 in the second half. Led by Jones and Jeremy DowDell, Olympus showed poise. Jones has learned to deal with basketball challenges, starting in elementary school, when his father would take him to camps in places such as Las Vegas and Chicago.
“I put him in lots of different environments,” Chris Jones said. “I never sheltered him away from getting his butt kicked.”
In that January interview, as his father's recollections were being relayed, Rylan Jones mouthed those words about being placed “in uncomfortable situations to become comfortable.”
Jones' 12th state tournament game, going back to his freshman year at Logan High, created some discomfort Thursday before the Titans responded in the second half.
Pleasant Grove, with future Utah center Matt Van Komen, will play Fremont in the 6A semifinals Friday. The Utes also will have former Utah prep players Branden Carlson and Jaxon Brenchley as returning missionaries in 2019-20.
Asked to discuss those incoming players, Krystkowiak spoke optimistically about his program's future, and then said, “We've got to stay in the present and finish this thing off.”
Rylan Jones knows exactly what he means.
At the Dee Events Center, Ogden
Pleasant Grove vs. Fremont, 2:30 p.m.
American Fork vs. Davis, 4:10 p.m.
Corner Canyon vs. Olympus, 5:50 p.m.
Jordan vs. East, 7:30 p.m.