PLEASANT GROVE — Sitting just outside the playoffs in the fifth spot in Region 4, Lone Peak was far from ready to give up on its season.
With their backs against the wall, the Lady Knights dug deep and won their final three games, including a pivotal 58-48 region road win over rival Pleasant Grove Thursday night, to tie Herriman for fourth place and force a play-in game for the final spot in the playoffs.
“Any win for us at this point is huge. When we knew we were in a dogfight, trying to get back into the hunt for state again, we knew that it was going to come down to those last few games. We knew we had to beat Westlake and win this one,” Lone Peak head coach Nancy Warner said.
Pleasant Grove pounded the ball down low and got into a rhythm to take an early lead and put the visitors on their heels.
That's when Lone Peak decided enough was enough and locked down on both sides of the ball to take control.
The Knights ended the first half on a dominant 9-0 run to take their first lead of the game at 22-21 and all the momentum.
“You can’t shut them down — they’re a phenomenal team. But we got the stops we needed. Whether that was forcing a pass over their heads or getting a defensive rebound, we were able to capitalize on those key stops and get some free throws on the offensive end for us,” said Warner.
And they were just getting warmed up.
Lone Peak came out in the third, got after it on defense and capitalized on several costly Viking mistakes to extend its run to 16-2 and open up a seven-point lead (35-28) with just three minutes left in the third.
The Knights were led by junior forward Emma Clark, who finished the night with a game-high 22 points and came up big down the stretch to pull off the impressive victory.
“We just worked together as a team and made big plays. We got to the free throw line and put them in. We just give it our all — that’s the thing about us,” Clark said.
After giving up a 3-pointer to freshman guard Sadie Nixon nearly midway through the fourth quarter, Lone Peak once again locked down on defense and didn't give up another field goal until the final minute to keep the home team at bay and safely extend its lead.
Pleasant Grove went on to trim its deficit to just five points with just over two minutes remaining. However, after a couple defensive stops and tremendous poise and execution at the charity stripe, the Knights were able to open up their biggest lead of the night (53-44) in the final minute before sealing the double-digit road win.
“It was just a phenomenal effort. I think it came down to free throws and playing smart basketball. We didn’t make them all in the end, but we certainly made enough to come out on top,” said Warner.
Lone Peak, which has now won three straight for the first time this year, will take on Herriman in a region battle for the fourth and final spot in the playoffs.
“We’ve just got to play the best ball we can and we’ll get to state. We’re not the most talented team, but we’ll give you 100 percent of our heart 100 percent of the time,” Clark added.
Ryan Love is a full-time student and has been a part-time sportswriter for Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724