RICHFIELD — Back-to-back barnburners.
Both 1A semifinal games were decided by last second shots, and in both cases, it was unheralded players who were heroes.
Bryce Valley's Ashley Nelson waited until the most critical moment in the game to do what her coach asked of her.
"I'd been asking Nelson to shoot the ball all night long," said Mustang head coach Tyson Brinkerhoff.
The senior guard waited until there were four seconds left on the clock to hit a 3-point shot that gave the Mustangs a 47-44 win over top-ranked Christian Heritage Friday night at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.
Bryce Valley's young players were so excited to be in the semifinal game, they had trouble controlling their emotions. Brinkerhoff said he had to bring several of them out of the game at times to let them catch their breath and get their emotions under control.
"I had girls crying on the bench," he said smiling. "For both programs this was a big game. Our girls played big. Its Bryce Valley's turn."
Abbagail Harman led Bryce Valley's offense with 12 points, while Whitni Taylor added 10 points. Brinkerhoff credited freshman Shelby Cornforth for tough defense against Emilie Volk down the stretch, including a key steal with less than a minute to play.
The Mustangs have played in the semifinals before, but never won there.
For Bryce Valley to win the game it had to try and do what no other squad has been able to do this season against Christian Heritage — contain Volk.
"Emilie Volk is a ball player," said Brinkerhoff shaking his head. "Her length and her ability to handle the ball and shoot, we threw everything we had in our defensive arsenal at her trying to stop her, and we still didn't do it."
Volk finished with a game-high 20 points despite the attention, but she was the only player in double digits.
The win gave the fourth-ranked Mustangs their first ever berth in the 1A state title game. They'll take on Rich at 5 p.m. today. The Rebels won their own nail-biter 51-50 over Piute thanks to their own unlikely hero.
Junior Tristan Bowers, who cut her head open in Thursday's quarterfinal win (also by one point), hit the game-winning shot with 2.4 seconds left on the clock.
"She really brings energy to our team," said head coach Scott Ferguson. "She sparked us last night and again tonight."
The 5-3 guard super glued the cut on her head Thursday night and played with the same fearlessness Friday night. Ferguson said she worked hard to be a key contributor to the squad.
"She stayed after practice and shot all year long," he said. "She's committed and it paid off for her tonight."4 comments on this story
The Rebels would not have won, however, without the huge offensive outing of Courtney Lamborn. She finished with 31 points and was a perfect 18-of-18 from the free throw line.
The T-birds were led by last year's 1A MVP Kandice Gleave, who scored 21 points. She took an in-bounds pass and lofted a shot almost the entire length of the court that was just a couple of feet wide of the basket at the buzzer.
Chelsea Sylvester added 13 points. The loss means the defending 1A champs will take on Christian Heritage in Saturday's third-place game at 3 p.m.