5A boys’ basketball: Pleasant Grove toughens up to oust Alta
Boys’ basketball • Vikings reach semis with aggressive, physical play.
Published: March 6, 2014 10:24PM
Updated: March 8, 2014 08:29PM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Alta's Landon Albrecht puts up a shot over Pleasant Grove's Mitch Brown and Pleasant Grove's Matt Conway as Alta faces Pleasant Grove High School in the 5A state boys basketball tournament at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 6, 2014.

The Pleasant Grove Vikings huddled around a projector screen in a seldom-used classroom. It was the day before the biggest game of their season, and the film they watched, from an early-season loss to their next opponent, Alta, showed a Vikings team they no longer recognized.

The players’ faces were familiar, and the players wore Pleasant Grove jerseys. But there was a lack of toughness, an unwillingness to match the Hawks’ physicality in the post.

“We kind of got bullied inside,” Vikings forward said Matt Conway of that early-season matchup. “They kept sending anyone to post up. …We weren’t tough enough as a team.”

But the Vikings are no longer that team. Three months after losing to the Hawks by double digits, they watched the film and realized that they would be the aggressors this time. They would be the better team.

If there was any doubt of that, second-seeded Pleasant Grove eliminated it Thursday with a lopsided 78-55 win over Region 3 champion Alta at the Huntsman Center, sending the Viking to the Class 5A semifinals.

The game was tight for a half. But then the Vikings established their quick tempo, forcing Alta out of its comfort zone. They began dominating in the post, with Conway racking up 19 of his game-high 25 points and the Vikings bruising the Hawks on the boards. They began showing the toughness they’d acquired.

“I don’t know if I’d call it surprised,” Conway said of the blowout. “We executed our gameplan how we wanted to and exactly how we expected to. We just did our gameplan so well that it shut them down.”

But how had the Vikings become so physical in just three months, after Alta had so easily exploited that deficiency in the teams’ first matchup?

Turns out playing five-on-six against the JV team, with the JV team allowed to foul however it wanted, develops some grit.

“We fully prepared for a battle tonight and we got one,” Vikings coach Randy McAllister said. “… I thought tonight we stepped up and battled them a lot better.”

bbrown@sltrib.com

Twitter: @BubbaSLTrib

Storylines

O The Vikings dominate the second half to advance to the Class 5A semifinals.

• Matt Conway has 25 points and six rebounds for the Vikings in the win.

• Alta loses for just the third time this season, sending one of the Class 5A favorites packing.