We’ve watched guys win state championships, multiple in a row, so, for us to come up short last year, we weren’t going to settle for anything less this year. —Steven Ashworth
SALT LAKE CITY — Lone Peak barely squeaked out a pair of wins over Pleasant Grove in the regular season, and many figured the third meeting in Saturday’s 6A championship would be a similar nail-biter. A dominant second half for Lone Peak ensured that it wasn’t.
Down four at halftime, the Knights pulled away from struggling Pleasant Grove as they cruised to the 61-44 victory to clinch the 6A state championship, the ninth title in school history and the first since 2014.
“We’ve watched guys win state championships, multiple in a row, so, for us to come up short last year, we weren’t going to settle for anything less this year,” said Lone Peak’s Steven Ashworth, who led the Knights with 15 points.
Pleasant Grove led 22-18 at halftime, and the game was still tight midway through the third quarter with Lone Peak leading 29-28.
The Knights closed the quarter on a 7-0 run to extend the lead to 36-28, and then, in the fourth, it pulled away at the free throw line in the final two minutes to clinch the state title a year after losing to Bingham in the championship.
“Last year definitely stung a lot, and, throughout this year, we just wanted to make it back and have another chance, and we did that. We just wanted to make sure we could play as hard as we can and give it everything we can,” said Lone Peak’s Max Brenchley, who had another double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
The decisive stretch came late in the third quarter with Lone Peak leading 32-28. Taylor Madson hit a floater over Matt Van Komen in the lane to make it a 34-28 lead. He missed his and-one free throw, but Lone Peak got the offensive board and played for one shot, with Jackson Brinkerhoff laying it in at the buzzer for the 36-28 lead.
Lone Peak got the ball to start the third quarter, and Madson scored again to push the lead to 38-28. Those six straight points came without Pleasant Grove ever touching the ball.
“We knew that if we got three stops and if we got three scores, that momentum would flip like a switch, and that’s what kind of happened for us, and we were able to ride it all the way out,” said Ashworth.
As well as Lone Peak played in the second half, the first half was the complete opposite as it was held to a season-low 18 points on 19 percent shooting, including 2 of 16 from 3-point range.
The previous low was 20 points scored against Pleasant Grove on Jan. 26, a game it trailed 26-20 at the break. In that meeting, the Knights exploded in the third quarter for 28 points and went on to win 65-61.
It happened again on Saturday. After the awful offensive performance in the first half, Lone Peak shot 57 percent in the second half. Ashworth scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half, while Jaxon Pollard came off the bench and provided a huge spark, scoring 11 of his 13 points after halftime.
“These boys have worked so hard since the day the season ended last year to try and get here again. For us to shoot the way we did in the first half, we’re pretty lucky to come out with that one,” said Lone Peak coach David Evans.
Pleasant Grove had its own offensive struggles in the first half but never worked them out.
Pleasant Grove’s 7-foot-3 center Van Komen got great looks in the lane throughout the game, but his baby jump hook kept bouncing off the rim. He was 2 of 7 from the field in both halves and finished with eight points and 11 points.
Van Komen had been a force in the first three rounds of the state tournament, scoring 14, 18 and 17 points, and Evans suggested that fatigue might’ve finally started catching up with junior.
“I don’t even know that we did that well, his shots just weren’t (really falling). He got a lot of good looks, he’s a really good player. He might be worn out from four games in five days. He gets pounded every game,” said Evans.
Brinkerhoff and Brenchley took turns in the lane banging in the lane with Van Komen, who wasn’t the only one who struggled from the field.
Pleasant Grove shot just 31 percent in the championship, and made just 2 of 12 3-pointers.