SALT LAKE CITY — The way in which Morgan coach Jim Wiscombe handled the foul trouble of his star player in Friday's 3A semifinal wasn't necessarily conventional, but it worked.
It could've backfired just as easily, and had Casey Evans fouled out Morgan would've been hard pressed to beat Deseret Hills the way it did.
"It was just a gut thing," said Wiscombe, about the leading scorer in 3A.
On Morgan's second offensive possession of the game Evans was whistled for an offensive foul. On Deseret Hills' ensuing trip down the floor he was called for a blocking foul.
Suddenly the highly-anticipated semifinal was thrown a major wrinkle.
"The first two calls of the game are against No. 4, yeah I'm worried," said Wiscombe, who believes both were kind of ticky tack.
Evans was in just as much disbelief.
"Those first couple of fouls I was a little upset with because I didn't think they were true fouls," said Evans.
Wiscombe decided to gamble and keep Evans on the floor throughout most of the first quarter. He started the second quarter on the bench, however, and while he was there the Trojans opened up a 31-19 lead.
Desert Hills responded with five quick points, and Wiscombe inserted Evans back into the game sensing a momentum shift. Conventional wisdom said he should've protected his star player until halftime, and sure enough it didn't take long for the aggressive Evans to pick up his third foul while battling for a rebound with 4:19 remaining in the half.
He remained on the bench until the final seconds of the half when Wiscombe reinserted him on an offensive possession.
"(Sitting on the bench) brought a lot of frustration to me, but my bench were screaming and cheering me on to pick my head up and that helped me out a lot," said Evans.
Evans started the second half on the floor and stayed out of harms way until the 1:31 mark when he was called for another offensive foul — his fourth of the game.
With Morgan still leading, Wiscombe replaced Evans until until about the six minute mark of the fourth quarter. While he was there the Trojans extended the lead from four points to 10 points.
"For him to be in foul trouble like he did, the other kids picked it up," said Wiscombe.
Even though it looked inevitable that Evans would foul out after picking up two early fouls, amazingly he never did.
Psychologically, it could've been a disaster for the Trojans had their leading scorer fouled out.
Now, Evans is one victory away from winning a state championship just like his big sister Shannon Evans did with Morgan's girls basketball team in 2004.
LONG TIME COMING: The last time Morgan won a boys basketball state championship was 1974, and Jim Wiscombe was a player.
"That's a long time ago," joked Wiscombe with reporters after Friday's semifinal win.
He's hoping to end the drought tonight against Wasatch, but knows it won't be easy.
"We'll just go after it tomorrow night. We've had some great teams that just didn't get a break here or there. We had two undefeated teams and didn't win it," he said. "We're back in the championship game, and we've got the same battle tomorrow night."
Ironically enough, Wasatch spoiled one of those undefeated seasons in 2005 when it beat a 23-0 Morgan team in the 3A semifinals.
Morgan heads into tonight's game with a 17-7 record.
EXTRA MOTIVATION: Apparently Morgan took offense to a 3A state tournament preview article in the Deseret News that said No. 1 Wasatch and No. 2 Deseret Hills were the favorites to play in the 3A state championship.
Morgan assistant coach Kovi Christiansen playfully joked with reporters after Friday's win that the assessment was great motivation for his players.
The Trojans are once again the underdog in the championship game, and trying to prove people wrong might be just the secret ingredient they need.
AVOID LONG LINES: With a big crowd expected at the Huntsman Center for the championship game tonight, fans can avoid long lines at the ticket office by purchasing tickets at uhsaa.org.