TAYLORSVILLE — A little more than a minute into overtime, Pleasant Grove freshman Faith Williams stepped to the free-throw line, grateful for second chances.
The guard missed two free throws with 20 seconds left in regulation, and then she committed the foul that sent Fremont’s Berklee Lerohl to the line where she scored the game-tying points.
“I was just nervous at that point,” Williams said after third-seeded Pleasant Grove upset second-seeded Fremont 70-66 in the tournament’s only overtime game Tuesday at Salt Lake Community College. “I thought I messed up the game.”
As she walked to the huddle between the end of regulation and the start of overtime, no one mentioned the misses or the foul. And then she got an opportunity at redemption, which she embraced with the enthusiasm of a 14-year-old playing in her first playoff game.
“I knew I was going to make them,” said Williams, who hit six of eight from the charity stripe to secure the victory for the Vikings. “I wanted to win so bad.”
And yes, she wanted to make amends for her mistake — even though her coach said they make it a practice not to discuss missed free throws.
“We shoot so many free throws in practice,” Nixon said. “They run and run and shoot and shoot. I told them (early in the season), ‘This season is going to come down to free throws. And you know what? We’re advancing to the next round of the state championship because we hit our free throws, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Four Vikings went to the foul line in the overtime, and all four hit them, securing the win for Pleasant Grove.
The game was a dogfight from the opening whistle. The Vikings led after the first quarter, thanks to a defensive plan that made life extremely difficult for the Silver Wolves’ leading scorer, Harley Hansen.
“(She) is an amazing shooter,” Nixon said. “We knew she was one of the top in the state, and we had to focus on. That’s why we extended our 2-3 (defense) with our bigs. And she had a rough time with us. Now when she got shooting a little bit, it was very scary. She’s a huge weapon.”
Hansen did find her rhythm after being held scoreless in the first quarter. She finished with a team-high 19 points before fouling out with 2:43 left in the overtime. The player who drew that final foul? Williams.
Nixon prepared her team for the emotional challenges of the state tournament, as well as the physical demands.
“We know when it’s tournament time,” she said, “anything is possible. I told them, ‘If you can make it to the state tournament, you go out there and don’t have any regrets. It’s OK if we lose. We’re going in as a number three, and nobody expects us to beat a team like Fremont. If we can go out and play loose and play hard, whatever happens, happens.”
The Vikings owned a 28-24 lead at halftime and they held a slight until midway through the fourth quarter. Then the teams swapped the lead, with a few ties, until overtime. That's when the Vikings' free-throw shooting won them the game.
Lehrol added 12 points to go along with Hansen’s 19 for the Silver Wolves, but the Vikings had five players in double digits. MeKenzey Miles scored 12, Williams finished with 19, Malli Valgardson added 12, Sarah Hamson contributed 11 and Sadie Nixon finished with 16 points in the win that allows them the opportunity to take on undefeated Layton in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“Fremont is an amazing team,” Nixon said. “So for little Pleasant Grove to go out and beat a team like Fremont, we just could not be more happy.”