CEDAR CITY — All season long, Lehi head coach Aubrey Van Pelt and the rest of the Pioneers coaching staff have tried to instill toughness in their team.
As the reasoning went, they’d need toughness to make it out of Region 9. They’d need toughness to advance into the state tournament and they’d need toughness if they wanted to best their semifinal run from a season ago.
More than that, however, the Lehi coaching staff have tried to teach the Pioneers the true meaning of toughness.
“We have talked all season about being tough and what that really is,” Van Pelt said. “A lot of times kids think toughness is about making big 3-pointers or 360 dunks. It is not.”
The Pioneers certainly tried for some of those highlight plays in their quarterfinal matchup with the Green Canyon Wolves.
When it came down to it, however, with the game on the line and time ticking away, the Pioneers fell back on what they’ve been taught toughness is — defense and rebounding.
As it turns out, that is exactly what they needed.
Lehi defeated Green Canyon 58-55 Thursday night, toughing out a contest that was hotly contested for its entirety.
The game came down to the final seconds, when a defensive stand, preceded by more than a few stands, enabled the Pioneers to walk away victorious.
“We decided to get stops. We decided to get rebounds,” Van Pelt said. “I knew it would be like that. I knew it would come down to the final seconds. Green Canyon is an amazing team. They played so good. That is one of those games where you hate to see either team lose. You really do.”
The Pioneers trailed for the majority of the contest, even into the fourth quarter. After Macie Warren tied the game at 53 points apiece however, with just over two minutes remaining, Lehi never trailed again.
That was in large part due to the team’s defensive play, which included a block or two from Maddie Lindsay, not to mention a timely steal by Galeai.
“I knew that it would come down to those tough little things, being in the gaps and getting stops,” Van Pelt said. “I knew that these guys would have the opportunity to have to do that. Last season, when we got here we didn’t do those things. This year, I am so proud, so proud of them.”
No Pioneer player elicited more pride, from Van Pelt or her fellow teammates, than Lindsay. The senior hit a pair of crucial free throws with less than a minute remaining and her defense against Green Canyon’s Sami Lewis was critical in Lehi’s effort to hold the Wolves to a single basket in the final two minutes.
Making her performance all the more impressive? Lindsay had been struggling of late.
“Maddie Lindsay was absolutely huge. She has not started very many games for us, she’s been our sixth man, but she was huge,” Van Pelt said. “She was kind of struggling a little bit. She struggled offensively against Pine View (in the first round). Tonight she stepped up. She got focused, got in the zone and did it. To see her play that way in that moment, there is no other kid I would’ve to see that from.”
The Pioneers were led by Galeai, with 18 points, while Maddison Warren and Macie Warren added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
With the win, the Pioneers secured their second straight semifinal appearance. This year they will battle the top-ranked Cedar Redman for a spot in the 4A state title game.
Cedar took on Stansbury in the nightcap and the Redmen were as hot as could be to start the contest.
Cedar leapt out to a 14-1 advantage early in the first quarter, a lead they would stretch to 20-4 at the end of the period.
The dominant start was merely more of the same for a Cedar team that is undefeated on the season.Comment on this story
“The thing about it is our team scores off of our defense,” Cedar head coach Corry Nielsen said. “We got six deflections (in that first quarter) and once we go, we go. We start four point guards, so any of those four can take off and go. We pass the ball, move the ball, we have good shooters and are athletic. That’s how we score, in transition.”
The Stallions tightened up after that, and actually won the second quarter 8-7, but the early edge achieved by Cedar was too much to overcome.
That was in large part due to a stifling defensive outing by the Redmen.
“That is who were are,” Nielsen said. “Our goal is to hold every team below 35 points. That is our defensive goal.”