Wednesday , February 21, 2018 - 7:06 PM
TAYLORSVILLE — The crowd volume rose like a rogue, red wave with “East” emblazoned on it.
It had been rising for nearly three quarters as Viewmont and East’s staredown-esque quarterfinal at the 6A girls basketball state tournament showed no signs of tipping one way or another.
Then the wave crested and made landfall, the result of a 14-0 run by East (21-2) spanning the third and fourth quarters that turned a 43-42 Viewmont lead into a 56-43 deficit and eventually washed away the Vikings’ sparkling season in a 66-59 loss.
McKenna Morris gave Viewmont (17-4) a boost with four 3-pointers in the first half, eventually drawing the defensive assignment of Rita Satini, who was previously guarding Mercedes Staples.
Morris scored 17 points with five 3s and played an important role in keeping the halftime score at a 32-31 East lead.
So came an end to the prep careers of Viewmont’s successful core group of seniors — Morris, Melissa Sorenson and Staples included — sooner than they would’ve liked and a year removed from a close loss in last year’s 5A title game.
“I’m just proud of us for even making it here, some teams don’t even have that opportunity, so I’m proud of us for making it this far, super proud of everyone especially the seniors I get to play with,” said Staples, who was held to three points in the first half and 11 overall.
Sorenson followed her 19-point, 14-rebound performance against Provo in the first round with 13 points and a 5-of-6 mark from the free throw line.
East’s aggressive defense forced several turnovers, but it resulted in fouls that put Viewmont into the double bonus with 3:51 left in the first half and into the bonus with 22.5 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Vikings couldn’t take full advantage, going 15 of 27 from the foul line. Vikings head coach Clint Straatman wasn’t happy after the game, saying there should’ve been more fouls called against East.
Each time Viewmont scored or got a defensive stop, the Leopards answered. Liana Kaitu’u led a quartet of East players who scored in double figures with 15 points.
Neither team led by more than three points until the Leopards went on their run in the third quarter. And like Leopards do, the run was fast.
“When we were pressing, we made a couple mistakes and they got a couple easy layups out of it, probably hurt us, we missed a few shots that we would normally make,” Straatman said. “What can I say? They just outplayed us.”
The game was a gripping affair, worthy of a championship game instead of a quarterfinal — not just due to the back-and-forth nature of the game, but also the vibrant pro-East crowd.
That crowd was treated to 23 lead changes from the start of the game to the latter part of the third quarter when East took a 44-43 lead.
There wasn’t a 24th.
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