Taylorsville • Two lines formed on the other side of the curtain. On each side of the hallway outside the locker room were Alta Hawks, their arms raised high, forming a tunnel for their friends to walk through.
And on the other side of the tunnel was a frenzy of red and black. Each player who ran past the curtain and under the man-made tunnel was greeted by a thunderous roar of family, friends and fans.
5A girls’ schedule
» Alta 50, Riverton 47
» Brighton 61, Davis 41
» Fremont 54, Bingham 41
» American Fork 61, Copper Hills 51
» Alta vs. American Fork: 2:30 p.m.
» Fremont vs. Brighton: 4:10 p.m.
» Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.
That’s what happens when you beat the defending state champs. It’s what happens when you hand the 22-0 Riverton Silverwolves, last year’s Class 5A title winners, their first loss since Feb. 7, 2013.
The Alta Hawks did that Thursday night at Salt Lake Community College, defeating the No. 1-seeded Silverwolves 50-47 earning a matchup in Friday’s 5A semifinals against American Fork.
So how does one top a previously undefeated powerhouse who rolled through its season dominating blowout after blowout?
"A lot of prayer," said Alta head coach Sean Yeager, "and a lot of luck."
But the Hawks ensured they’d have a shot when the numbers on the clock whittled down in the fourth quarter. From the opening tip-off, Alta took the fight to the Silverwolves, being aggressive on defense - it held Riverton to 29 percent from the field - and waiting for its moment on offense. The Hawks entered the fourth quarter up 39-37 and traded lead changes for the last five minutes of the game.
It was after Riverton’s Mallory Bostic hit two free throws to give her team a 47-45 lead with 1:14 left when the Alta coaches revisited a analogy they’d used entering the game: It’s the last round of a boxing match and the bell is rung signaling 10 seconds before the round ends.
"We said maybe it’ll come down to that where we’re both just going at it down in the last two minutes of the game," Yeager said.
Freshman Mariah Martin tied the game with a lay-up and after Madyson Quigley hit 1-of-2 free throws to give Alta a 48-47 lead with 39 seconds left. Riverton was faced with keeping its unblemished season afloat. Martin again padded the Alta lead with two free throws after Riverton’s Latisha Richards missed two free throws.
Then Alta locked down defensively and Richards’ last-second 3-point heave at the end drifted right.
"I knew that if I make these free throws then our team would beat them, so I kind of just said, ‘These things have to go in,’" Martin said.
The Hawks then sprinted to the ecstatic Alta student section to stamp the upset.
"We just knew that we had a chance that if we played together and we played hard, that we would crush them," said Alta center Rachel McDonald, who finished with a game-high 18 points and seven rebounds. "We had a chance, and we knew that if we played with our heart and played with passion all the way through that we would win."
5A girls’ quarterfinals recapNext Page >
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