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Olympus pulls away from Alta to clinch 5A boys basketball state championship



Box score

Olympus never felt like the underdog against No. 1 Alta heading into Friday’s 5A state championship.

Even though it was a rematch of last year’s semifinal in which Alta trounced Olympus by 20 points, there was a confidence within the Titan locker room that this playoff rematch would unfold differently.

Much of that stemmed from the fact Olympus was riding an 11-game winning streak — including a region win over Alta — but also the players knew they couldn’t possibly shoot any worse than they did in a narrow semifinal win over Highland.

“We were like 6 of 32 from 3. I don’t know that you can do much worse that that, so we knew coming in we were gonna find the basket,” said Olympus guard Jordan Barnes.

Sure enough, the second seed Titans made shots — 52% to be exact — and defensively they held Alta to just four points in the decisive third quarter as they marched to the 69-61 victory for the program’s fourth state championship since 2016.

“It’s about the kids and I just cherish every year. I’ve been there 27 years and I’ve had a helluva lot of good players and great teams and good fortunes happened the last 10 years for Olympus,” said Titans coach Matt Barnes, whose teams previously captured titles in 2016, 2018 and 2022.

“Had a lot of rough years early and tough heartbreaking losses, but the floodgates have opened and it’s been pretty special.”

Olympus only trailed once in Friday’s championship, when Alta guard Ace Reiser hit a 3-pointer with four seconds left in the second quarter to give his team a 32-31 lead at the break. Oly quickly regained the lead in the third behind Dutch DowDell’s hot hand, stretching the lead to as many as 15 early in the fourth.

Alta buried five 3-pointers in the fourth to close to within 62-56 with 51 seconds remaining, but Olympus sank 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

DowDell was a one-man wrecking crew in the second half for Olympus as he made of 8 of 9 shots, including a perfect 4-of-4 on 3-pointers, scoring 24 of his game-high 34 points after halftime.

He buried an angle-right 3-pointer early in the third quarter that extended Olympus’ lead to 38-32.

“They went under (a screen) on this right wing, and I hit that first one, and I was like, ‘Oh, that felt great,’ and I started letting it fly. From there on out I just felt like I couldn’t miss,” said DowDell.

In the final 42 seconds of the third quarter, he hit two more 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater that stretched the lead to 48-36.

“He’s a tremendous shooter, and (Alta’s) Jaxon’s (Johnson) a tough cover. He’s long and athletic and makes it a little tougher on him, but it all started on the defensive side when we got stops and we executed and guys found him,” said Barnes.

Olympus and Alta split their region games, with each team winning on its home floor. Alta’s point guard engine Reiser missed the game at Olympus on Feb. 9, and the Titans walked away from that game believing with or without Reiser they were the better team.

That was the same mentality at the Huntsman Center.

“I think we were the better team that night and I knew we’d come out here and do it again,” said DowDell.

In the fourth quarter Friday, DowDell scored Olympus’ first 11 points, including his fourth 3-pointer of the half for the 53-38 lead with five minutes remaining.

“Dutch really got us going. We were shooting alright, but Dutch in that third quarter really got us going and after that all the momentum was our way and we found a way,” said Jordan Barnes, who finished with six points, six rebounds and eight assists.

Reef Smylie had a big game for the Titans, particularly in the first half where he scored 10 of his 13 points aided by a pair of 3-point plays.

Alta had four players score in double figures in the loss, led by Reiser with 18 points and Johnson with 15.

Collectively, Alta shot really well in the first half (56%) to match Olympus’ hot early shooting (52%) in a great back-and-forth game. It couldn’t sustain the momentum in the second half in its bid for a 5A repeat, however, making just 2 of 12 field goals in the third quarter, and none from behind the arc, as the deficit swelled to an insurmountable double-digits.

For Jordan Barnes, he called Friday’s championship a dream ending to his high school career playing for his dad.

“It’s the picture perfect ending,” he said. “Playing for him for the last four years has been nothing but a dream.”

Deseret News 5A all-tournament team

MVP — Dutch DowDell, Olympus

Jaxon Johnson, Alta

Jordan Barnes, Olympus

Carter Doleac, Alta

Reef Smylie, Olympus

George McConkie, Highland

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