I'll be fine for Thursday. —Riverton's Tiena Afu
TAYLORSVILLE — The phrase "Tiena Afu for two" was said by the PA announcer over and over again during Riverton's 50-37 win over Clearfield in the first round of the 5A state playoffs on Tuesday.
It will be a shame if the phrase is never heard again for the remainder of the tournament.
After scorching the Falcons for a game-high 23 points, Afu had to be helped off the court with only seconds remaining, having sustained a reported injury to her surgically repaired ACL.
Earlier, with 3:19 remaining, and the Silverwolves surging to a 43-33 lead, Afu came up gimpy after scoring on yet another strong drive to the hoop. She left the game then, briefly, and then returned about a minute later.
"I stretched it out a bit, and then went back in," Afu said, hopeful the injury wasn't serious.
But then, after giving it another try, she found she couldn't put weight on the injury and had to be helped from the floor.
After the game Afu was helped out of the locker room by a teammate to address the media while managing to smile and remain optimistic.
"I'll be fine for Thursday," she said confidently.
As for her performance before the injury, Afu proved particularly effective in the second half.
With Riverton clinging to a slim 19-17 lead after one half of play, Afu took over during the second quarter, scoring 13 of her team's 16 points to help forge a 35-25 lead entering the fourth quarter.
From there the Silverwolves maintained the lead as Afu contributed six more points to finish with 23.
"She's very talented and she sometimes needs to be pushed because she's a really nice girl," said Riverton coach Ron Ence. "And when she pushes herself, and the coaches don't have to do it, she's really good."
After incurring a 10-2 deficit at the end of the first quarter, the Falcons used an effective pressure defense to cut the lead to just 19-17 at the half.
"We tried for a couple of days to recreate their pressure — that's their scheme and they have quick guards," Ence said. "They'll just take chances and we didn't handle it well. We handled it better in the third quarter, not so much down the stretch, but we got a cushion because of some of Tiena's hustle plays in the third quarter."
Regarding Afu's availability for Thursday's quarterfinal matchup against Copper Hills, Ence is hopeful his star senior will be able to play.
"This is her fourth year, and she's been our leader this year, so it's really tough to see her go down," Ence said. "We need her to move any farther in the tournament."