An emotional Tyler Woodruff thumped his chest in celebration after he banked in a layup to put his team on top 44-41 with 23 seconds left in the game Friday night at Stansbury High School. With 5 seconds remaining, “Woody” sank two free throws to ice the game and give Tooele a 46-41 victory over their rivals.
“It was my last game against our rivals so I wanted it to be a good one,” Woodruff said.
The senior’s game was more than good — it was fabulous. Woodruff scored 66 percent of Tooele’s points with a career-high 27. Tyler Lawrence scored 13 and Justin Pollmann 6 to give the Buffaloes their point production.
Woodruff’s final field goal was huge for the Buffaloes.
“(Tyler) Lawrence drove down the lane and my man went over to help out on defense, which gave me a path to the basket,” Woodruff said.
Lawrence’s contested shot came up short, but Woodruff nabbed the offensive rebound and put it in to put Tooele ahead 44-41.
With Tooele’s two victories over Grantsville and Stansbury last week, the Buffaloes join those two teams with two wins each in region play. One of the three teams would need to overtake Ogden for fourth place to make the playoffs. It will be difficult after Ogden picked up its fourth region win with a triple-overtime victory over Bear River on Friday night.
“I’m really happy for these kids,” said Tooele coach Shawn Faux. “It’s taken time for us to come together as a team. I think we’re finally working together as a group.”
Woodruff was out in front on several fastbreak baskets throughout the night. His performance did not surprise his coach.
“He (Woodruff) really has the ability to get out and run the floor, and he’s best when he’s in the flow with the offense. When he’s out in front he has an advantage against smaller defenders because of his size. He has the ability to average 16 to 20 points a night. I think he’s the best post player in our league,” Faux said.
Tooele’s roster lists Woodruff at 6-feet-6-inches. Stansbury didn’t have anyone on the floor taller than 6-feet-2-inches.
Woodruff said he and the team were motivated by the loss of longtime Tooele assistant coach John Mahler who died in an car crash Thursday evening.
“Just thinking of him gave me confidence because he had so much confidence in me,” Woodruff said. “Our whole team had been coached by him.”
Stansbury coach Ryan Harris also noted that Tooele played inspired.
“Tooele definitely played for a cause (coach John Mahler’s memory),” Harris said. “They played so well as a team. Woodruff played awesome. He was composed and confident. His teammates seemed to trust him too. I thought Pollman did a great job of deferring to Woodruff. Lawrence too played a solid game.”
Pollmann, who scored 30 against Grantsville, scored only 6 in the contest. “He’s (Pollmann) learning to rely on his teammates more; he did a good job tonight. It takes a lot of pressure off when he doesn’t have to do it all himself,” the coach said.
The Buffaloes were strong on defense and created several Stansbury turnovers.
Neither team could build much of a point advantage throughout the game as the lead seesawed back and forth. Tooele led 8-7 after the first quarter, and took a 21-20 lead at halftime on an offensive put-back by Woodruff.
Tooele trailed 24-23 in the third quarter, when it scored 6 consecutive points to surge out in front 29-24. Lawrence connected on a short jumper, Woodruff scored inside and Lawrence scored on the end of a fastbreak.
After a Stansbury foul shot, Woodruff hit a baseline jumper to give Tooele its largest lead of the game at 31-25.
Stansbury’s Niko Chacon gave his team a big lift with a string of excellent plays. He sank a 3-pointer from the corner, made a steal and drove in for a basket, and was fouled on a 3-point attempt and converted all three free throws. Eight straight points from Chacon gave the Stallions a 33-31 lead heading into the final quarter.
It looked good for the Stallions with 5 minutes left in the game when Tanner Barton drilled a 3-pointer from the left angle to give his team a 38-34 advantage. Stansbury still had a 4-point lead at 40-36 when Taylor Graves scored inside on a pass form Stone Tia.
Tooele point guard Shaydan Walker was helped off the floor with a leg injury just under the 4-minute mark in the final quarter. The senior tore his ACL and his high school career is over.
With under 3 minutes, Lawrence drove down the lane and laid in a shot to slice the Stansbury advantage to 40-38. Stansbury’s Ryan Robbins was whistled for his second offensive charging foul on the next possession, and Woodruff hit a baseline jumper to tie the game at 40-40 with 2:07 remaining.
Robbins injured his hand late in the game and Barton came in to shoot a 1-and-1 foul situation for the injured Robbins. Barton hit one of the two shots and Stansbury led 41-40 with 2:01 left in the game. It would be the final points for the Stallions.
Tooele called a pair of timeouts within 1 minute as the game wore down.
“In the timeouts I mentioned to them that we needed to get stops and challenge everything on defense, don’t foul and box out,” Faux said.
Pollmann scored on a twisting layup to give his team the lead again at 42-41 with 1:32 left. The Buffaloes forced a Stansbury turnover and Tooele called timeout again when they got the ball on their side of the floor with 55 seconds remaining. Woodruff then scored the final field goal of the game with 23 seconds remaining.
Chacon scored 10 for the Stallions with Tia, Colton Barkdull, Barton, Graves scoring 6 points each. Robbins scored 5 and Tom Griffith 2.
“We got plenty of open shots but just could not get anything to go down. Definitely we were too reliant on the 3-point shot while they were attacking us inside,” Harris said. “Yeah, we put ourselves in position to win as we’ve done several times this year. It was a good battle. Fun game to be a part of.”
Tooele hosts Morgan on Wednesday and Stansbury plays at Ogden.