TAYLORSVILLE — After three upset victories put Pleasant Grove into the semifinal round, the Vikings' Cinderella run finally — and predictably — came to an end at the hands of top-ranked Syracuse. The 71-52 victory marked the Titans' 48th consecutive win.
It also put them one step closer in their quest to defend last year's state title.
"It feels fantastic to be back in the championship game," reigning 5A MVP Brittney Martin said. "We've been there before, so I think we'll be ready to play tomorrow."
Pleasant Grove kept the game close through the first two periods, controlling the pace and entering the break trailing 30-29. The Vikings even took the lead with a quick bucket in the third quarter, but then Syracuse started to roll.
The Titans went to work on the boards and ramped up their defensive pressure, and the result was eight consecutive points and a complete change in momentum. The Vikings became unraveled in the fourth quarter, throwing ill-advised passes and going cold from the field. Syracuse, meanwhile, opened the fourth quarter on a 13-0 run that put the game away.
"We started to fly around a bit more on the defensive end in the second half," Syracuse coach Rob Reisbeck said. "Our press wore them down in the third quarter, and that helped us push the tempo. That's when we're at our best."
Martin once again owned the paint, finishing with 17 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks for the Titans. The key for Syracuse, though, was not Martin's stellar game. It was the ability of her teammates to contribute in meaningful ways.
In the end, a total team effort by Syracuse — on both offense and defense — was too much for Pleasant Grove to handle. As a team, the Titans nabbed 15 steals and hauled in 21 offensive rebounds.
For Pleasant Grove, Danyele Hoffman mixed in occasional brilliant plays — a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc or a no-look pass through traffic — with sloppy ball-handling and careless passing. She finished with nine points, six steals and an assist. She also had six turnovers.
"Danyele's a really good player, and our plan was to stay on her and dog her all the way up the floor," Reisbeck said. "I think she got a little bit frustrated as the game went on."
"This was a big win for us, but we know what we came here for," Reisbeck said, "and that's to win the championship again. If we come back with the same intensity we had in the second half, then I think we have a pretty good shot (on Saturday.)"
Syracuse will play Alta in the 5A championship at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Salt Lake Community College.