SPRINGVILLE Payson center Seth Lovell's game-high 24 against the Springville Red Devils wouldn't have meant much without his last two.
With just over five tics left, the 6-foot-7 senior went to the free throw line after pulling down a big defensive rebound off a potential game-tying Springville free throw. Instead Lovell, who had made only two of his previous five free throw attempts, had a chance to bury the Red Devils with a pair of freebies.
"I actually felt pretty calm," Lovell said. "I knew I needed to step up and knock them down."
And he did, clinching a badly needed victory 48-45. The win is Payson's first in Region 7 and comes on the heels of a 65-35 beating at Provo last week.
"I'm proud we came out and played hard," Payson coach Dan Lunt said. "If we hadn't, that would have meant our season was over."
The Lions lost seven of their first nine games, prompting a team meeting where, according to Lovell, Lunt "lit a fire under" his floundering team.
Lunt praised his team's intensity on offense and defense. The Lions held Springville star guard Michael Salazar to ten points, eight under his season average. On offense, Lovell shouldered most of the load but passed out of a double team late in the fourth quarter to junior Jacob Tipton for a layup that gave the Lions a 46-44 lead. Starting guards Seth Muhlestein and Tage Wilcock spent most the night guarding Salazar, but each hit big threes to end Springville scoring runs.
Salazar did hit a pair of three-pointers, including a bomb from the corner to give the Red Devils a 33-32 lead late in the third quarter, and fellow guard Dustin Day chipped in 10 on three field goals and four of six free throws.
But Day was the only Red Devil to shoot over 60 percent from the charity stripe. Springville got to the line 22 times but only managed to hit 13. Salazar missed the back end of a one-and-one that could have tied the game at 46 and four seconds later came up short on the front end of another one-and-one with 1.5 seconds left.
Springville is now 0-1 in region play and 5-5 overall, while the Lions improve to 1-1 in the region and won their third game in 10 tries.