With the game on the line, Tooele now knows it can depend on its star players to perform when it matters most.
The Tooele Buffaloes needed every bit of offense it could muster Wednesday night against the Westlake Thunder, and they came through with a 75-74 victory.
The Buffs had the ball with 22 seconds remaining and a 73-72 lead, but a turnover led to a basket for Westlake. With the Thunder in control of the lead, the Buffs brought the ball down the floor.
Justin Pollmann took control of the rock and drove the lane with defenders draped all over him. He lifted off from just inside the free throw line, and with one hand he launched a floater that went up and into the hoop to give Tooele the lead with three seconds remaining at 75-74.
Westlake called a timeout and had one last chance. They inbounded and took a desperation shot from half-court that fell short, and the Buffs celebrated the win.
“If you love to compete and play basketball, that’s the kind of game you want to get involved in,” said THS head coach Shawn Faux. “That’s just a lot of fun. [Westlake] is a good team, which makes it more exciting for our team that we can compete and come out and show that we can compete against good teams when we play the way we’re capable of playing.”
Tyler Lawrence said he and his teammates didn’t come out focused in their game against Salem Hills on Monday when the Buffs lost 88-56. The game against Westlake was a different story.
“We were all ready to compete, ready to come out with our mindset before the game,” Lawrence said. “We had fun, we came out and competed, and it was fun. We had a good time.”
Pollmann may have hit the game-winner, but it was Lawrence who led the team in scoring with a big performance through the third quarter. Lawrence finished with 30 points, including six 3-pointers.
“I appreciate my team for feeding me the ball,” Lawrence said. “I was feeling it. It was good. It was good.”
Following Lawrence’s 30, Pollmann scored 27, Matt Memmott and Ace Hymas each scored eight, and Ryan Brady scored two. Brady and Hymas also contributed six rebounds each.
Faux said the shooting performance against Westlake is close to what he had in mind when he stressed up-tempo, but he also doesn’t want to rely on hitting 3-pointers too much. Pollmann hit five 3-pointers to go along with Lawrence’s six.
“Lawrence got very hot,” Faux said. “Pollmann got very hot. It’s one of those things when you’re warm and you get on fire like that, it’s good to have, but they also scare me to death as well. It’s the old saying, when you live by the 3, you die by the 3.”
Westlake hit 13 3-pointers on the night to keep pace with Tooele. Eight of those came from one player: Spencer Garner.
“I don’t know what else we could’ve done,” Faux said. “We were in his face, and he was still casting and making. It made it interesting, but that was a lot of fun.”
Lawrence said the close win against Westlake is just the confidence boost the team needs.
“It gives us adrenaline to get going and get ready for region and start playing hard to get that region championship,” he said.
Faux also said this game will help Tooele down the road. He said he put together a tough schedule against 4A and 5A schools so that his players have the chance to get better and play against bigger and faster competition. He said winning a game like this will elevate his players.
“I think this right here will do just that,” he said. “It’ll give them the confidence now that they’re looking for that they can compete, they can play on levels of other teams that are 4A and 5A if they come out and do what they’re supposed to do.”
Tooele’s next game will be on the road Tuesday against Pleasant Grove. That game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.