TAYLORSVILLE—With three minutes left before halftime in the American Fork-Viewmont 5A state championship girls’ game, it looked like the Cavemen were on cruise control. AF, in the midst of a 24-game winning streak, appeared to have the gold trophy all wrapped up.
They just didn’t realize that the Lady Vikings of Viewmont were far from done.
Putting on one of the greatest rallies in tournament history, Viewmont came roaring back from a 19-point deficit and almost caught their Utah County opponents. In the end, the Cavemen used two long-range outside bombs to stop the rally and then held on for a 50-46 victory Saturday afternoon at Salt Lake Community College. American Fork finished the year at 25-1 (it lost its season-opener by 10 points to Alta then ran the table). Viewmont finished its best season in years with a 21-4 record.
The game was tied only once, at 2-2, when Tori Page scored on a layin. From there, the Cavemen (Cavewomen) took off, pulling to a 14-2 lead with three-pointers from Taylor Moeaki (later named tourney MVP) and Paige Farnsworth. A basket by Page with 23 seconds left in the first quarter cut the lead to 14-4, but Addison Homestead nailed another trey as the period wound down, making it 17-4 after one.
During that first quarter, Viewmont was unusually cold from outside (2-11, 18 percent), and the victim of a number of long rebounds that went AF’s way.
“We really struggled against them in the beginning, and that’s on me,” coach Clint Straatman said. “I didn’t really prepare our team very well. We should have been more aggressive to begin the game, and a couple of shots that should have fallen and didn’t would have helped.”
Things actually got a bit worse in the second quarter. Megan Carr and Melissa Sorenson scored baskets for the Vikes after AF had taken a 21-4 lead, but then Holmstead and Moeaki both nailed three-pointers, and with 3:02 left in the half, it was 27-8.
That’s when things began to turn around. Over the next two minutes, Viewmont scored eight straight points (matching the eight it had scored in the games’ first 13 minutes). Carr hit a short jumper, Sorenson scored inside, and Page hit two field goals to cut the lead to 27-16. Even though Moeaki made a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left to make it a 29-16 halftime lead for AF, the momentum had shifted.
The aggressiveness Straatman talked about really showed in the third quarter. Over 7-1/2 minutes, American Fork scored just one field goal and four points. Meanwhile, the Vikes came alive. Mercedes Staples, held scoreless in the first half, got a quick basket after a steal. Grace Johnson followed that with a steal and layin, and Page scored again inside. Staples converted a three-point play, and Carr followed with two free throws. She scored again with a nifty left-hander inside, and it was 31-20 with 1:47 left in the quarter. Moeaki made two free throws for AF, but Carr scored again at the 1:07 mark to bring the Vikes back within two at 33-31. That’s when American Fork coach Corey Clayton called his first timeout.
“I thought that if we had been able to make a stop there, after that timeout, we would be able to take control,” Straatman said. “Their three-pointer really hurt.”
That three-pointer came from Farnsworth in the final seconds. She then hit another one to open the fourth quarter, and suddenly AF led 39-31. The lead stretched to 11 at 46-35 with 1:30 to go, but again, the Vikings showed they had no quit in them. Madalynn Toole nailed a three, Johnson also hit a three, and even after AF made four free throws, the Vikes made things close with a two and a three from Staples to make the final score 50-46.
“These girls never gave up and they fought to the end, as they did all season,” Straatman said. “AF is a very well-coached team with a lot of depth. I was very proud of the year we had and the way we responded in this game.”
Staples and Carr, who were both named to the all tournament team, each scored 12 for Viewmont, while Page added 10. Carr also had 10 rebounds, and Staples had three steals and six assists. Viewmont made all five of its free throws in the game, while AF went to the line 20 times and made 13.