PLEASANT GROVE — Just before the holiday break, on Dec. 20, the Pleasant Grove Vikings traveled to West Jordan to take on the Copper Hills Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies stood at 8-2 at the time — they now boast a 10-2 record — and were rightfully considered one of the best girls basketball teams in the state.
Then, with victory seemingly in hand, everything fell apart for the Vikings, and the Grizzlies rallied to handily win the game.
“We were up by 13 points in the third and we ended up losing by 14,” Pleasant Grove head coach Stephanie Nixon said.
The Vikings learned many lessons from the defeat, which were on full display Thursday night at Pleasant Grove High School.
Led once again by Nixon and Osguthorpe, as well as Eva Ongoongotau, the Vikings went up by as many as 13 points in their contest against the Riverton Silverwolves.
Again their opponent rallied, and the Silverwolves drew as close as two points with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Instead of suffering a repeat of their earlier collapse, however, Pleasant Grove found a way to hang on for the 52-44 victory.
“We learned some lessons from that (loss to Copper Hills) and it showed tonight,” Nixon said. “Riverton is a really good team and that — the comeback — is what good teams do. Even though they are a good team and started coming back, we knew what we needed to do — we had to continue to fight, and we couldn’t be hesitant. The poise that we had down the stretch … we took care of it.”
No one was more important to the Vikings’ efforts than Nixon, who scored a game-high 21 points. Ongoongotau added 16 points, Osguthorpe 12.
It was Ongoongotau who had the biggest impact early on, and her seven first-quarter points helped Pleasant Grove (11-2) take an 11-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Vikings added to their lead in the second quarter, powered by eight points by Nixon, and entered the break with a 26-20 advantage.
Coming out of halftime, the play of Pleasant Grove only seemed improved, and minutes into the second half the Vikings were firing on all cylinders.
Osguthorpe, Ongoongotau and Nixon combined to score 14 of the Vikings’ 15 points in the frame, lifting the hosts to a 13-point edge over the visitors.
“It was a great comeback,” Nixon said. “You have to give it to Riverton. Their offensive rebounded exceptionally well, and that is what hurt us.”Comment on this story
Aided by Nixon, who drilled four clutch free throws in the final seconds, and fellow senior Sydney Valgardson — Nixon noted that it was Valgardson who enabled the Vikings to remain poised and collected in the face of the furious Riverton rally — the Vikings weathered the storm.
“For us to learn from our past mistakes and be on the other side of it is what is most important,” Nixon said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my girls. The poise that we had down the stretch in the fourth, that is what I am most proud of.”