5A girls basketball tournament: Riverton hits key free throws to sneak by Layton
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
View the full online photo gallery here.
TAYLORSVILLE — The first time Jamie Smith had a chance to shoot a breakaway layup in the 5A state tournament this week she passed the ball to a teammate instead.
"I was scared," the Riverton guard said, explaining that during the first game of last year's playoffs, she tore her ACL, MCL and fractured her femur. She watched from the sidelines as her teammates lost in the quarterfinals.
And despite a year of working with many of those same teammates to get back to the 5A state tournament at Salt Lake Community College, running down that same court where her season ended last winter was overwhelming.
"I passed it off, and then I got in trouble," said Smith after her late-game poise helped the fourth-ranked Silverwolves upset the second-ranked Layton Lancers 37-31 in the quarterfinals.
Smith was not going to let her fear get the best of her twice.
Thursday hadn't scored a point, and her team hadn't lead when she stepped to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
And let's just say she has a love-hate relationship with foul shooting this season.
"I haven't really been hitting (them) in region," she admitted. "But I knew I had to make them."
She took her coach's advice to just breath. And then she hit both to tie the score at 27-27 with 3:08 left in the game. She hit two more with 15 seconds left to put the game out of reach at 35-31 for the talented and tenacious Lancers.
"I'm so stoked to be in the semifinals," she said grinning.
Smith may have had only six total points (all from the foul line) but she helped the team with three assists and three steals. And in this contest between two of the best defenses in the state, every pass, every point, ever rebound was critical.
"That was an intense game," said Riverton head coach Ron Ence. "We knew it would be a really good game, that they'd have us scouted and play physical. They're a really strong team."
He said his team struggled in the paint against the Lancers at times, but he kept making adjustments in order to help his players take advantage of any opportunity that might arise.
"Just to give ourselves a chance," he said. "We had to fight and scratch for everything."
The teams played each other well and had a remarkably similar statistical result. Each team had 10 assists; Riverton had 11 steals to Layton's 10; Layton earned 28 rebounds to Riverton's 22; neither team shot well from the 3-point line.
But Layton had five more turnovers and Riverton shot 24 fouls to the Lancers' six.
The Lancer's miscues in the final minutes, Riverton's stifling press and defensive pressure, and their 62 percent free-throw shooting in the second half gave the Silverwolves the win.
Ence said he has intense respect for Van Price and his team and knew it would be difficult to earn that semifinal berth.
When he talked to them about the weight of great expectations, he told them to take advantage of their "time to shine."
"Take a deep breath," he told them. "That's your life jacket."
In addition to some nice plays at critical moments, his players benefited from a bit of luck.
"We did catch some breaks there. We're just fortunate," said Ence. "Because we've made those mistakes."
He was proud of how his players performed, especially when the pressure was at it's toughest. This was a team picked to finish fourth in Region 4 in preseason coach's polls.
"We're in the final four," he said. "Look at what we've accomplished."
The Silverwolves had contributions from every player who stepped on the floor with Whitney Saunders and Morganne Campbell scoring eight points each, while Lauren Bond scored five, grabbed four rebounds, earned three assists and snagged three steals.
The win means Riverton will take on Weber at 3:15 p.m. Friday.