TAYLORSVILLE — Playing the last game of the night Thursday at the 6A girls state basketball tournament, Riverton and Fremont each had a long time to envision themselves taking the next step toward a state title.
In a tightly officiated game full of big plays, Fremont’s Karlie Valdez made the final one. She drove the length of the court and banked in a layup with one second left to lift her team past another group of Silverwolves 48-46 in a quarterfinal matchup at Salt Lake Community College.
Valdez and Mazzie Melaney led a balanced scoring attack with 10 points each as Fremont rallied from a 16-point deficit to advance to the Friday’s semifinals, where it will play Westlake. Bingham will take on Copper Hills in the other matchup.
“I just tried to take it (the ball) as far as I could,” recalled Valdez, who accepted the inbounds pass with 9.3 seconds left. “When I got it, I thought I had plenty of time. I looked and didn’t see anybody around. I dribbed as far as I could until I got cut off and threw it up and it went in.”
Valdez admitted her memory of the play quickly became hazy, but replays showed she veered right to get away from a defender, aim the shot high off the glass from a difficult side angle and it caromed into the basket.
“I was so excited,” she said.
“That’s the play we drew up,” added Fremont coach Lisa Dalebout, who didn't want reveal the play's name. “It was a called play and it worked better than we thought.”
Fremont improved to 21-2 on the season and Dalebout noted earlier comeback victories over Northridge and Weber might have helped prepare her group of Silver Wolves to remain focused. During the fourth quarter, when Fremont rallied from a 41-35 deficit, Valdez, Melaney, Abby Broadbent, Emma Calvert, Haylee Doxey and Halle Duft took turns making key plays on both ends of the court.
“There’s no shame losing to Fremont,” said Riverton coach Ron Ence. “They’re a great team and they made one more play than we did. That was the difference. We battled as hard as we could.”
Valdez’s shot will be what everyone will remember, but Fremont also made several plays on defense, holding Riverton scoreless in the fourth quarter until 55 seconds remained. Trailing 44-41, Kane tried to take control and drew a foul while driving to the basket.
Even with the pressure and the pain from an injury Tuesday that required eight stitches near her mouth, she made the free throws and then, after a turnover, teammate Meredith Coleman sank a three-pointer from the corner to tie the game and set up the final play.
Riverton led for much of the contest, riding the inside play of Kane, an Iowa State commit, and seemed ready to pull off the upset until their three-point shooting success disappeared. Coleman and Kaitlin Burgess connected on three-pointers to start the game to create a 9-0 lead but, with the exception of Kane, their perimeter scoring was inconsistent.
Kane created all kinds of problems for Fremont and finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds. She was also a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line,
Bruce Smith grew up in Boise, Idaho, and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high-school sports articles for the Deseret News.