On this last home game of the season, Pleasant Grove leaned on its seniors to defeated region rival Lehi 66-57 and earn a first-round trip to the 5A playoffs.
Pleasant Grove head coach Randy McAllister said, "In this region, it's hard to tell when your boys are playing well or not because everyone is so good, you just have to wait for the final score." For Senior Night, McAllister wanted his seniors to make it a game to remember. Senior Matt McCarty said, "Coach told us that we needed the game, but he wanted us to have fun, work together and come up with the win."
In the first period, only two players for the Vikings scored points, seniors Brody Childs (nine) and Matt McCarty (six). Everyone handled the ball but just those two scored. For Lehi, they weren't far behind. They did find themselves down 8-0 before they started hitting its shots. But four players scored, not just two. At the end of the first period, the Vikings were up 15-14 with Lehi owning the momentum.
In the second period, the Vikings outscored the Pioneers 19-7 as freshman Casey Brown, seniors Braxton Leetham and Kegan Coon all dropped treys on the Pioneer defense. Senior Braden Wellman, as well as Childs and McCarty, also contributed to give the Vikings a 34-21 lead at the half. But McAllister was not comfortable with the lead because "I knew they (Lehi) had not made their run. You just can't get comfortable in this region anytime."
During the third period, the Pioneers made their first run as their three best shooters came alive and scored 22 points on the Vikings as seniors Tanner Nygren and Blaze Nield scored eight and seven points respectivley and junior Marcus Draney also scored seven. The Vikings still held the lead, but Lehi drew within six points at 49-43 with the last period remaining.
At just over four minutes into the last period, Lehi made its second run and drew to within one point at 49-50, but Pleasant Grove's senior point guard Wellman did a great job of keeping the ball moving and away from Lehi's defenders.
Even though senior Tyson Rupp and Draney hit one trey each, Pleasant Grove outrebounded the Pioneers and with 4:31 remaining in the game, Pleasant Grove's Child blocked a Lehi shot from the far right corner to send the ball into the stands. That block turned the momentum completely to the Vikings. When asked about that block after the game, Childs said," I knew where the ball was going. I wanted to get up on the shot and it felt great when it sailed away."
From that point on, Lehi had to rely on fouling Pleasant Grove to get the ball back and try to catch up. Time ran out after Lehi's Draney swished the second trey he attempted to bring the final score to 66-57 for the Vikings.
With the win, Pleasant Grove secures third place in Region 4 with a 7-5 region record and an overall record of 16-6. Lehi now has a 6-6 region record and will have a play-in game with Westlake, also 6-6, to see who makes the playoffs as the fourth-place team from Region 4.
Lehi was led by Nygren's 16 points. Draney had 15 points and Nield added 12 points.
Pleasant Grove's McCarty led all scorers with 23 points, Childs added 19 points and Leetham tossed in 14.
With the win, Pleasant Grove will move on to the first round of the 5A tournament on Tuesday, March 1 to play Region 1's second-place team, Skyview. That game will tip off at 5 p.m. at Weber State University.
Kent Allen lives in Pleasant Grove and reports on Pleasant Grove High School varsity sports for Deseret Connect.