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Holladay Journal

Olympus boys claim another state basketball title

Apr 09, 2024 10:50AM ● By Josh McFadden

Olympus players celebrate with students after the Titans captured the Class 5A boys basketball title. (Photo courtesy of Cbreeze)

For the fourth time in nine seasons, the Olympus Titans are state champions in boys basketball. 

Olympus captured the 2023-24 Class 5A crown by defeating defending 5A champion Alta 69-61, March 1 at the Huntsman Center on the campus of the University of Utah. It was Olympus’ second win on the season over the Hawks, but this second victory was so much sweeter. 

“It’s pretty remarkable; it’s a special group,” head coach Matt Barnes said. “We dominated at the end of the season. We had good chemistry. Things clicked. We were a great team with no superstars.”

The Titans finished the season 24-3 and 10-2 in Region 6, tying Alta for first. For Olympus, it was its fourth state championship in the past nine seasons, having also won in 2016, 2018 and 2022. 

“We like those even years,” Barnes said with a chuckle. 

In this year’s final, the matchup was close in the first half, with Alta clinging to a one-point halftime lead, 32-31. The third quarter was the turning point, with the Titans turning the tide on the defensive side. Olympus got key stops and forced turnovers that led to three-pointers. A 17-4 third-quarter run put Olympus up 48-36 heading into the fourth quarter. Dutch DowDell hit a bunch of three-pointers and finished with six makes from behind the arc as part of his game-high 34-point day. 

“In the third quarter, we kind of locked in defensively,” Barnes said. “It was pretty remarkable to hold Alta to four points. We talked about getting stops. We had to keep being us. We had to make it tough on them.”

Alta was more efficient offensively in the fourth quarter, scoring 25 points. With a minute and a half to go, the Hawks cut Olympus' lead to six points. Once again, Olympus hit big shots. The Titans also converted free throws to keep Alta at bay and clinch the victory. 

Other big contributors in the title game were seniors Reef Smylie, Will Blanck and Jordan Barnes (the head coach’s son). Smylie had 13 points and four rebounds, while Blanck and Jordan Barnes had six apiece. Barnes also had six assists. 

“To win a state title with my son and [DowDell] (who I have coached since he was in the fourth grade) and the rest of the seniors is pretty awesome,” Matt Barnes said. “It was a great game with a lot of students and a great atmosphere.”

Early in the season, however, it looked as though Olympus might not be championship worthy. 

The Titans started Region 6 play at 1-2 after a loss to Highland and an 11-point defeat at Alta. But the team didn’t panic. Instead, it got back to the basics and reeled off eight consecutive wins in the regular season. Olympus then defeated Salem Hills in the second round of the playoffs, 96-49, followed by a 76-43 blowout of region foe Skyline in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, the Titans got a tough game from Highland but prevailed 57-50.

“We started 1-2 and then focused defensively,” Matt Barnes said. “It started with defense and guarding.”

On the year, DowDell averaged 24.4 points and 3.9 three-pointers per game. He was second in 5A and sixth in the state in scoring. He also led 5A in three-pointers per game and was third in the state in that category. Jordan Barnes averaged 14.5 points and 10.5 assists a contest; the latter was second-best in the state and tops in 5A. Barnes, a guard, also led the team in rebounding with 7.5 a contest. Smylie scored a second-best 17.5 points a game and added 5.3 rebounds a game. Sophomore Gavin Lowe chipped in 9.8 points a game this season, along with 2.3 steals an outing. 

Jordan Barnes may have had the best individual performances of the season for Olympus—or any team in the state for that matter—in the team’s quarterfinals win over Skyline. In the blowout victory, Barnes didn’t take a single shot but instead dished out 20 assists. Matt Barnes said he believes that total tied a state record. Smylie, DowDell and Lowe were the biggest recipients of his unselfish play, scoring 23, 23 and 22 points, respectively. The game prior to that, against Salem Hills in the second round, Jordan Barnes put together a fantastic performance with 10 points, 15 rebounds, 18 assists and five steals. DowDell had 32 points, while Smylie had 25 points and 13 rebounds. 

Matt Barnes, who just finished his 27th year as Olympus coach, has now amassed 528 wins. He reflected on how this team compares with his other championship teams. Admittedly, he said it’s tough to do. 

The 2018 Titans, for example, went 27-0 and won their games by the average score of 84-57. That team featured players such as Rylan Jones, who played at the University of Utah and Utah State. Later, he transferred to Samford, which nearly upset Kansas in the NCAA Tournament’s first round in Salt Lake City on March 21. 

But there is something about this latest title-winning squad that coach Barnes will always admire.

“This was a special team,” he said. “The players played together for four years and was a bit under the radar. Every year has its own story.”

Olympus loses a lot of production off this championship team, but coach Barnes has shown the ability to reload his Titans. Lowe will be the focal point in 2024-25, as other players will look to step up and take on larger roles. 

For now, Matt Barnes, his son and the rest of the Titans will enjoy being on top of Utah high school basketball once again. λ