RICHFIELD — Adam Long took on the toughest defensive assignment on the court by summoning every bit of hustle, strength and basketball skill he had.
And then he summoned the spirit of his older brother, Jason Long, who graduated from Lone Peak in 2005 and died four years later from Leukemia.
"My older brother played football at Lone Peak and they got to they state championship on his shoulders," said Long after holding ICS center Zach Paige to no points and just three rebounds in the second half of the Warriors semifinal 71-60 win Friday night. "I just kind of felt him there in that game kind of helping me along."
Paige's performance was so dominant, it looked like the underdog Lions might have a shot at upsetting the third-ranked Warriors.
"Adam did an awesome job," said senior teammate Brandon Nichols. "(Paige) was killing us in the first half. We told him he needed to shut him down."
Adam's oldest brother, Jeremy, is the Warriors' head coach and he credited his younger brother's effort with the reason the team is playing in Friday's state championship game.
"We said, 'You lock him down'," said Coach Long. "He did it, and we won the game because of it."
Adam was emotional after the game, hugging coaches and crying. He said the tears came because he felt the presence of his older brother and also because he'd accomplished something he'd worked all summer to be able to do.
"Everything I've done this summer was to play defense," said Long. "That's why I spent hours in the gym lifting weights to be able to take on those kids who are bigger than me."
The Liahona starters are mostly seniors who've played together for four years. The school's athletic programs have only been sanctioned for two years of varsity play.
"I've been playing with everyone for five or six years," said Brayden Facemyer, who had another huge offensive outing with 35 points and 13 assists.
Adds Nichols, who seemed to have an uncanny ability to find his teammates when he needed them most, "Our chemistry is just awesome. We know where each other is all the time. We've been working for this since we were freshman=85It's everything I thought it would be."
Nichols added 18 points, seven assists and four steals in the win.
The Lions had an impressive offensive outing shooting 45 percent from 3-point range. Paige's 15 points were the team high, while Wesley Poulsen added 13 points and Jarred Engelholm contributed 12 points and four assists.
So how hard was it for Adam to battle Paige in the paint for 16 minutes?
"I'm going to be icing down like nothing else."
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company