CEDAR CITY — Uintah head coach Kristy Putnam was confident.
Not only had her team completed a three-quarters-long rally to overtake the Bonneville Lakers in Thursday afternoon’s 4A quarterfinal contest at the America First Events Center on the campus of Southern Utah University — a rally that had given the Utes a one-point lead with 31 seconds remaining — her senior point guard, Kassidy Callahan, was at the free-throw line with the opportunity to give the Utes a little breathing room.
Only a week earlier, in the Utes’ 58-50 first-round win over Desert Hills, Callahan had gone to the charity stripe 10 consecutive times with the game on the line, and all the senior did was make 10 consecutive free throws.
“She was fouled at the end of the game against Desert Hills and she took 10 free throws in a row and made them all,” Putnam said.
Surely, Callahan and the rest of the Uintah coaching staff thought, she would do the same Thursday.
Instead, Callahan’s attempt, the first of a one-and-one situation, clanked off the rim straight to the Lakers.
“We thought for sure she had it and then when she missed it, wow, that was out of character,” Putnam said.
That miss set in a motion a nerve-wracking turn of events for both teams, as Bonneville had two separate possessions in the final seconds wherein they could have earned a berth in the 4A semifinals.
Instead, when the final whistle sounded, it was the Utes who came out on top as Uintah defeated Bonneville 43-42.
“That was really nerve-wracking,” said Putnam.
Early on the game seemed to be the Lakers' to win.
Bonneville won the first quarter 14-12, and a stronger second period gave the Lakers a 27-19 edge heading into the half.
For the Utes, early foul trouble to Kassidy Callahan nearly proved their undoing.
“We started slow, that was part of it, but also my point guard (Callahan) got in foul trouble two minutes in,” Putnam said. “We had to play the whole half without our point guard. That hurt us. I knew if we could stay close we’d have a chance, 'cause we’d get her back.”
The impact of Callahan’s return was almost immediate — Uintah outscored Bonneville by five points in the third quarter — as was an increased intensity on the part of the Utes.
“We were more aggressive,” Putnam said. “We told the girls at halftime that (Bonneville) wanted it more. We needed to turn the tables on them. The girls needed to want it more than they did and they came out (in the second half) and did that. They did a great job.”
No two players were more important to the Uintah rally than Kaitlyn Callahan and Foster.
Together, that duo brought the Utes back, and it was Kaitlyn’s three-point play with just under a minute remaining that gave Uintah the lead it needed.Comment on this story
“Our girls are seniors,” Putnam said. “They have composure and they don’t get frazzled. They usually handle things pretty well and they did that today.”
With the win, Uintah advances to the semifinals where it will face the Region 12 champion Ridgeline RiverHawks. The semifinal berth is the first for Uintah since the 2004-05 season.
“This is huge for Uintah,” Putnam said. “It has been awhile since we have been here. The girls play hard and to be here in the semifinals at state... it’s great.”