I really had no doubts. She's a resilient girl and she is incredibly mentally tough. And she deserves it. —Fremont coach Lisa Dalebout, on junior Shelbee Molen
TAYLORSVILLE — Big players come through in big moments.
The 5A semifinal round is one of those big moments.
So even though Fremont junior Shelbee Molen had struggled to put points on the board in the first and second rounds of the state basketball tournament, both the shooting guard and her coach knew she was due for a breakout game when the Silver Wolves faced Brighton at Salt Lake Community College on Friday evening.
And as expected, she came up big.
Molen, who had scored 15 total points in the first two games, equaled that mark in just the first quarter against Brighton and went on to score a game-best 26 points, leading Fremont to a 59-52 win and a trip to the title game.
"I really had no doubts," Fremont coach Lisa Dalebout said. "She's a resilient girl and she is incredibly mentally tough. And she deserves it."
Not only was it deserved, but it was earned with hours of prep work by Molen, who has averaged 16.4 points per game.
"I don't know another girl on the planet that has shot the ball more than that girl," Dalebout said. "She was due. You're not going to keep that girl down long, and I was really proud of how she came out with some savvy and resilience the way she did."
Molen started off with two free throws, followed them with a long 3-pointer, hit two quick buckets, and then finished off the first quarter with back-to-back baseline 3s to set the Silver Wolves up with an early, double-digit lead.
"I just had to forget about the way I played in the first two games," Molen said. "Try to not get in foul trouble this game, and I just went out there with my whole heart and played for my team."
The junior continued to impact the game throughout the remainder of the contest. She had six points in the third quarter, shot 56.2 percent from the floor — and 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line — while accounting for two rebounds, three assists, one steal with just two fouls and zero turnovers.
"She let things open up for her," Dalebout said. "She didn't force things today, and she played defense and rebounded the ball really nicely and when she does that she plays great games."
The Bengals put together a small 5-0 rally in the middle of the second quarter and went into the halftime locker room down 29-21. Fremont countered in the second half, outscoring Brighton 10-4 in the first half of the period, but the Bengals, the Region 3 champions, kept pushing throughout the game, prompting Dalebout to remind her team "we don't stop until the clock runs out."
"I felt like last game, in the Bingham game, we kind of let up a little bit, and they made a run on us and cut it down," Dalebout said when asked about that reminder. "I don't do well at teaching to spread and kill time. (Instead) being tenacious and staying with it and being aggressive, taking open shots but trying to kill time at the same time, trying to be smart — that's what I meant by it."
Her team responded, shooting 50 percent from the floor in the second half and 44 percent for the game. The Silver Wolves tallied 30 points in the paint and scored 20 off 16 Brighton turnovers; they dished out 14 assists and picked 11 steals.
"We knew they would be incredible, especially on the boards," said Dalebout, whose team outrebounded Brighton 33-31. "And I was proud of how my girls responded."
Junior Lindsey Johnson led Brighton with 14 points and four rebounds and senior Maddie Chin had 10 points. Alissa Hirschi led the Bengals with eight rebounds; McCall Christensen had seven boards and nine points; and Dani Baton finished with nine points, three rebounds and three blocks.
Amanda Wayment had 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and six rebounds for the Silver Wolves, while Kaelani Sagapolu led with eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Harley Hansen had nine points, five rebounds, five steals and three assists.
As a team, Fremont limited the Bengals to just one 3-pointer in the game, four assists and four steals while securing its spot in the title game, a trip it missed a year ago with a loss in the semifinals.
"I think they're very determined to finish. I feel like they're not satisfied," Dalebout said. "It's awesome to get to the final four because you've worked a really long time to get to this point. It feels really good and the atmosphere is cool, but they've gone through this and they're hungry and determined to finish."
Fremont will play American Fork, the fourth seed from Region 4 that has already upset three higher seeds, in the championship at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.