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Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Fremont players leap off the bench after a made basket late in the fourth quarter during the high school girls basketball 6A first-round game against American Fork at the Lifetime Activities Center on the SLCC campus in Taylorsville on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019.

TAYLORSVILLE – Lisa Dalebout caught sophomore guard Averee Porter’s attention, and pressed both hands down toward the floor, while mouthing the words, “It’s OK.”

She smiled, and added, “It’s a long game.”

The Fremont coach’s reassurances may have soothed the young players a bit as fourth-seeded American Fork jumped out to an 8-0 lead against the defending state champions in the first round of the 6A tournament Monday afternoon.

But what really helped them find that balance between calm and confidence they needed to pull off the 53-44 first-round victory was some big plays from the team’s biggest stars – center Emma Calvert and post Timea Gardiner.

“There was a little (panic),” said junior Haylee Doxey. “I think we were just trying too hard. … Our energy on the court, our energy on the bench (turned the game around). Everybody just started playing together as a team and we pulled it out.”

There were a couple of key moments, but none were bigger than when Calvert hit a 3-point shot in the second quarter as the Silver Wolves clawed their way back into the game, and then when Gardiner hit a 3-pointer at 3:19 in the third quarter, giving Fremont a six-point lead.

“I thought Timea did a really good job of making some big plays for us at the end,” Dalebout said of where the leadership on the court came from in the win. “Emma finished better at the basket. And Halle (Duft), our little point guard, she’s just so crafty. She scares me a little bit with the way she handles the ball sometimes, but she did a really good job, especially when we went to that spread.”

Dalebout said that while everyone on the roster except Gardiner played on last year’s state title team, the demands of their roles are so different this year that she worried their inexperience would show in the high pressure of the state tournament.

“They played their age at the beginning of the state tournament,” Dalebout said. “Last year, yeah, they played a lot, but it wasn’t on their shoulders. They had the older kids to defer to. They weren’t really the ones in charge, and they’d never really felt that pressure. And you could kind of tell it got to them.” Dalebout said two of the timeouts she called in the first quarter were to let the young players know there was no reason to panic just a few minutes into the game.

“It was hard for me to just reel them in and say, ‘Just relax,'” Dalebout said. “You need to slow down, even though you need to be quick. So that balance is really hard to do, and you could tell when they went up on us, I think it was a 9-0 run at the very beginning of the game, you could tell they were really panicked.” So she called the timeouts and reminded them that a high school basketball game is 32 minutes long.

“They (were) over-playing it,” she said. “They were trying so hard. … So that was the message, ‘This is not going to be won in the first quarter or in the second quarter.’”

American Fork’s Halle Nelson hit a 3-point shot that gave the Cavemen a one-point lead at halftime. And while Dalebout wasn’t happy about that lapse, she said it may have helped them focus throughout the second half.

Fremont was led by Calvert, who scored 21 points, while Gardiner added 17 points and 12 rebounds. She also had three blocked shots. Doxey finished with nine points and eight rebounds in the win.

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For the Cavemen, Nelson led the team with 18 points, while Jamie Shepherd added 14 points. Fremont outrebounded American Fork 33-22.

Gardiner said hitting that 3-point shot was a tremendously energizing moment for her.

“It feels really, really good,” she said. “The energy is just amazing to feel.”

Gardiner said it was her coach’s reassurances and her teammates’ effort on the court that helped calm her nerves.

“Coach is one of our energizers, honestly,” Gardiner said. “It helps that she has confidence in us that we’re going to come back and fight, and that’s what we did.”