As always happens, the past three weeks of high basketball state tournament action reiterated that anything can — and often does — happen. Of the 10 total boys and girls teams that hoisted trophies, only six were the No. 1 team in their respective classification entering the playoffs. The five state champions on the girls side were Alta (5A), Springville (4A), Emery (3A), Enterprise (2A) and Rich (1A). The Boys state champions were Lone Peak (5A), Highland (4A), Wasatch (3A), South Sevier (2A) and Wasatch Academy (1A). The Springville girls and Wasatch boys were the only repeat champions. It took 184 playoffs games to crown the 10 champions, and here are the Deseret News’ picks for the 10 best playoff games.
Highland’s march to the 4A state championship nearly ended a day early when Colton Colledge’s 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the front of the rim. This semifinal was very well played from the opening whistle, as both teams executed very well the entire game each shooting above 47 percent. The teams traded baskets, and the lead, throughout the fourth quarter, but the Rams hit just a few more big shots down the stretch to eke out the win.
In a shocking outcome that demonstrated just how powerful momentum can be in high school sports, Fremont overcame a 22-point halftime deficit to survive a big scare from underdog Viewmont. Fremont trailed 32-10 at the half but proceeded to outscore the Vikings 39-12 in the second half. Fremont coach Lisa Dalebout ordered her players not to look at the scoreboard in the second half and instead just play from possession to possession. The strategy worked.
It had been decades since the Ogden Tigers took part in a state tournament just up the road at the Dee Events Center, and they gave their fans plenty to cheer about. Underdogs going into the game, the Tigers got off to a great start leading by 10 early. As expected, the Titans rallied by halftime and throughout the second half the teams traded leads in front of a partisan Ogden High crowd. Olympus missed game-winning shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime, but in the second overtime it finally started making some free throws to pull away from Ogden.
Regardless of the round, many believe this quarterfinal was the real 4A championship game as Springville and Mountain View were ranked first and second heading into the state tournament. Their quarterfinal clash did not disappoint either. Springville got off to a sluggish start, and then threatened to run away with the win after taking a 38-28 lead in the third quarter. The Bruins rallied back and took a 47-46 lead with 30 seconds remaining. After Springville regained the lead at the foul line, Mountain View missed three potential game-winning shots in the final 10 seconds.
Leading 44-25 with 4:26 remaining in the third quarter, Brighton was well on its way to the first-round upset victory. Shockingly, the Bengals squandered the entire lead and dodged a bullet when Viewmont’s Blake Wilkinson missed a game-winner at the end of regulation. In overtime Viewmont took a 59-56 lead, but the Bengals fought through the adversity with two of their best players on the bench after fouling out. Zach Wertz came up with two huge steals in the final minute to help preserve the victory.
This game featured not one, but three buzzer beaters. With his team trailing 45-42 at the end of regulation, Rich’s Cody Groll drained a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime despite a Monticello defender in his face. Kendal Maughan returned the favor for the Buckaroos with a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of the first overtime, his only points of the game. Rich ultimately had the last laugh as Kayden Calder buried a long-range 3-pointer as time expired, fulfilling a promise he made to teammates Groll and Parker Stuart who each fouled out earlier in the game.
Despite leading almost the entire game, Woods Cross suddenly found itself trailing region foe Olympus midway through the fourth quarter. It still trailed 65-64 as Olympus stepped to the line for a 1-and-1 situation with 30 seconds left. The Titans couldn’t convert, and Zach Hunsaker responded with a driving lay-up to put the Wildcats ahead 66-65 with 10 seconds remaining. When Sam Williams’ 3-pointer bounced off the rim and a harmless tip in attempt missed at the buzzer, the Wildcats could finally celebrate in a game that Austin Bankowski dominated with 32 points. Olympus used 13 3-pointers to overcome a big early deficit, but it couldn’t bury the one that mattered most.
There was plenty for fans to cheer about in the highest scoring game of the state tournament, particularly two monster fast-break dunks by Tyler Ott. Morgan turned a technical foul in the second quarter into an eight-point possession to open up a 10-point lead. Desert Hills rallied to take a 42-41 lead in the third quarter, but the Trojans responded and increased their lead to 14 points at one point in the fourth quarter. The Thunder rallied late with six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough as underdog Morgan survived despite leading scorer Casey Evans being in foul trouble all game.
Syracuse’s 48-game winning streak came to a shocking end as Alta, which lost five games during the regular season, executed a perfect game plan to stymie the heavily-favored Titans. Alta slowed the tempo and jumped out to a surprising double-digit lead. Once Syracuse superstar Brittney Martin got hot, order seemed to be restored as the Titans took a 44-43 lead early in the fourth quarter. Down the stretch though, the poised Hawks executed like they were the team on a 48-game winning streak as they knocked down big free throws in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win.
Trailing by 17 points early in the third quarter in front of a huge crowd at the Dee Events Center, No. 1 Lone Peak was on the verge of making a surprising exit from the state tournament. Spurred on by a suffocating defense that forced Fremont into countless turnovers, incredibly the Knights erased the entire deficit by early in the fourth quarter. Despite squandering such a big lead, Fremont still led 53-52 with 43 seconds remaining. Lone Peak pulled ahead for good on a three-point play from Jordan Hamilton, and then TJ Haws extended the lead to 58-55 with 7.7 seconds remaining in the game. Patrick Fishburn’s contested 3-pointer at the buzzer came up short as the ‘Wolves missed out on pulling off the huge upset.