TAYLORSVILLE—East High won the 5A state girls basketball championship on Saturday at Salt Lake Community College, but the Leopards had to get past a tough Viewmont Vikings team in a Wednesday semifinal, 66-59. It ended back-to-back great seasons for the Lady Vikes, who lost in the finals last year and finished this season 17-4.
The quarterfinal matched the two teams who’ve shared the top ranking in 5A most of the season. It was a back-and-forth battle for 26 of the 32 minutes, but the six-minute drought in the third and fourth quarters left the Vikings wanting more.
Neither team took control in the first half. Viewmont hit four three-pointers in the opening quarter, two from Kenna Morris and one each from Emma Carr and Kierra Gunnell. East stayed inside with Lani Taliauli controlling offensive rebounds and scoring six points, and shooting guard Laina Kaitu’u scoring six from outside. Viewmont led 19-17 after one quarter. And the lead seesawed back and forth in the second quarter as well. Morris hit two more three-pointers for Viewmont, but the Leopards double-teamed and kept Viking Mercedes Staples bottled up, limiting her to just three first-half points, all from the line. East led 32-31 at the break.
With two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Hannah Simonson scored inside for the Vikings, giving Viewmont a 43-42 lead. But then East held the Vikings scoreless for the next six minutes. Kaitu’u scored inside, Lealani Falatea hit a trey, Blanche Prichard scored inside and Falatea scored again as the quarter ended, giving East a 51-43 lead.
The Leopards scored the first five points of the final quarter, extending their lead to 56-43 with 4:23 to go. Viewmont made a short run on free throws from Sorenson and Staples, and cut the lead to 59-51 with three minutes to go after a rebound basket from Sorenson. But the Vikes had to begin fouling, as East stalled, and the Leopards made 13 of 19 freebies in the final period.
Morris led the Vikings with 16 points, Sorenson added 13 and Staples 11 in their career finales for the Vikings, who have been dominant in basketball for the past two seasons. East went on the beat Highland in a semifinal and then defeated Timpview 68-48 on Saturday to win the school’s first-ever girls basketball state title.