5A boys' basketball: Pleasant Grove coach says Vikings should be proud
As his coach walked toward him with the trophy he had helped earn, Matt Conway dropped to his knees.
It wasn't the trophy Pleasant Grove had wanted.
The long trek of the Vikings had taken them past Layton, zooming past Alta, and just eking by American Fork. But against Lone Peak, the defending champ, Pleasant Grove's title dreams ended in an 84-66 loss that the Knights led early by huge margins. Inching toward the finish didn't make it any easier.
The team straightened itself long enough to take a picture on the Huntsman Center court, then quietly retreated to the locker room. Coach Randy McAllister, however, smiled for them.
"These guys weren't a great team just three months ago," he said. "They just progressed and worked to the point where they became a very, very good team. Obviously we didn't want it to end this way, but I'm very proud of their accomplishments. It was a great, great season."
Only two seasons ago, the Vikings were the winners of precisely four games. The foundation took a long time to assemble for Pleasant Grove to have one of the best seasons in school history.
It was partly Matt Conway, the 6-foot-6 forward whose post moves gave him an advantage over most of his would-be defenders. Riley Court, the do-everything guard, was also a leader. Then there were other strong role players: Mark Sheffield, Hayden deHoyos, Mitch Brown, Jake Wilson. Everyone had a part to play.
And together, they accomplished things. Great things. They beat Lone Peak earlier in the year. They avenged their other two losses in the tournament, against Alta and American Fork. It gave long-suffering Pleasant Grove fans hope that their title drought the last came in 1962 would soon be over.
By halftime, it was clear that was not the case. Lone Peak led by 18 at halftime, and the second half brought no relief at all. The Knights shot over and around the Vikings, who fought to the bitter end.
And bitter it was. But McAllister hoped, as he watched his team walk away from its last game, that time would help his players heal and appreciate how close they came.
"It's just a good, balanced well-rounded team that's been unselfish. It's been a pleasure to coach them this year," he said. "Only one team leaves here winning their last game. They've got to leave with their heads high and be proud of their accomplishments."