RICHFIELD — It is often the case in close games, at any level of basketball, that free throws, missed or made decide the game.
Intentional fouls are a regular occurrence, usually gifted to a team's worst free-throw shooter.
The tactic is meant to prolong the game, limit points scored and give the losing team a shot, however slim, at an incredible comeback.
Trailing by five points with just over three minutes remaining in their quarterfinal contest against the Kanab Cowboys, the Wasatch Academy Tigers decided it was time to apply that tried and occasionally true stratagem.
It backfired in a big way for the top-seeded Tigers, thanks to Kanab junior Sidney McDonald.
McDonald connected on 15 of 16 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter, lifting the Cowboys to a stunning 67-58 upset victory.
“It happened and I kind of laughed about it,” Kanab head coach Kade Glazier said. “(Sydney) is our best free throw shooter and she came up big down the stretch. It was amazing that she was able to do that.”
Making her star turn, a regular occurrence this season for McDonald, all the more impressive was her less than stellar play prior to the fourth quarter.
McDonald, who finished with a team-high 19 points, had just one point through the first three quarters.
“She struggled early on and started getting down on herself,” said Glazier. “The thing about a good basketball player is they always rebound and I told her that at halftime. I told her to keep firing and her shot would come.”
While McDonald struggled early on, the rest of the Cowboys did not. Instead, they excelled and took a six-point advantage into the half.
“I was kind of wondering how our game was going to show up, whether we would show up like that or if we would come out and be scared and intimidated,” said Glazier. “I’ve got to hand it to the girls, they came out and fought from 32 minutes away to the final seconds. They weren’t scared of (Wasatch Academy) and they came out and fought every second of it. It was amazing to watch.”
Leading the Kanab charge in the first half was Brinley Cornell with 12 first-half points. Josie Lathim added six first-half points, helping Kanab withstand multiple rally attempts by the top-ranked Tigers.
Wasatch Academy began to find its footing after halftime, and after outscoring the Cowboys 15-13 in the third quarter, the Tigers, specifically star Manu Oliveira, tied the game at 38 points apiece less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
Wasatch even took the lead, 42-41, on a Nataly Dunka layup with five minutes remaining, but the Cowboys refused to break.
A 3-pointer by McDonald put Kanab back on top and a layup by Lathim, coupled with a mid-range jumper, courtesy of Cornell, gifted Kanab the five-point lead that ultimately triggered the game-deciding foul fest.
From there, it was all McDonald and all Kanab.
“It means a ton,” Glazier said of the win. “We placed fourth in our region, but I think that our region prepares us for games like that. When you have five or six really tough teams that you have to go against, we are used to games like that.”
“We just beat the No. 1 team in the state!,” he added. “It means a ton. They played really well.”
Up next for the Cowboys is a semifinal contest against the Millard Eagles, set to be played Friday evening at 5:50 p.m.
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