At 7-foot-4, Pleasant Grove senior center Matt Van Komen always stands out in a crowd.
In Friday afternoon’s 6A semifinal boys basketball game at the Dee Events Center in Ogden against Fremont, he stood out for all the right reasons on the court as well.
Van Komen put together one of the best all-around games of his playoff career, making good plays on offense, defense and on the glass as he set the tone for the Vikings as they rolled to the 72-55 win over the Silver Wolves.
“They battled Matt and he was tired,” Pleasant Grove head coach Randy McAllister said. “I talked to him during timeouts and he was huffing and puffing but he kept battling and had a really effective game. He was the difference to me because we had something that they just didn’t have. Matt was great today.”
The Viking center was impressively efficient, scoring 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting while going a perfect 5-for-5 at the free throw line. He also set up teammates for baskets with a couple of nice assists.
On the defensive end, he finished with four official blocked shots but he altered a lot more and led all players with 11 rebounds.
“We worked on getting in good position rather than being 15 feet out,” Van Komen said. “That was huge. I also got some really good passes from my teammates. I have to think about it, remember that I’ve got to box out and get good position.”
Since Fremont didn’t have a player on the roster taller than 6-foot-5, Van Komen had opponents going low the whole game.
“You get really used to it,” Van Komen said. “I’ve been dealing with that for four straight years. You’ve got to get used to it. It’s up to the referees whether they can do it or not but I thought it was fine.”
The fouls did add up eventually for the Silver Wolf post players. The biggest turning point in the game came from such an exchange in the fourth quarter.
With the Vikings leading 60-51, Fremont was still close enough to be dangerous. Van Komen came down the floor and tried to set up inside but multiple collisions with Silver Wolf junior forward Mitch Stratford eventually result in the Fremont players being whistled for his fifth foul.
Van Komen made both free throws, then Pleasant Grove got a Tyler Fairbanks 3-pointer that virtually put the game away.
“It was fun,” Van Komen said. “It was a shot of energy. That’s when we hit our peak and it was just fun.”
McAllister gave credit to Fremont for playing well and making few mistakes. The Silver Wolves knocked down 11 3-pointers.
“It was a consistent game from two teams who wouldn’t give in,” McAllister said. “They got out to a great start and we had to battle back a little bit, but from that point forward it felt like it was a back-and-forth, see-saw battle. It seemed like they played a very clean game against us. I told my coaches it would be nice if they would bounce it off their foot one time. It took to the last several minutes for us to get any separation at all.”
Fremont made three treys in the first quarter as it led by as many as six points, forcing the Vikings to abandon their zone.
“You have to adjust as the game goes,” McAllister said. “We knew they were a 3-point team, one that thrives on that. We wanted to see how our zone matched up on that but they came out hot. That was an easy decision.”
Along with Van Komen’s 25 points, Pleasant Grove also got 15 points and 10 rebounds from senior guard Casey Brown and 11 points from senior guard Kawika Akina.
Silver Wolf junior guard Dallin Hall led his team with 16 points — a much smaller tally than his 38-point outing in the quarterfinals.
With the win, now the Vikings turn their attention to getting what they didn’t get in 2018: a 6A state championship.
“We’ve been pretty dialed in,” Van Komen said. “We’ve been doing two practices a day and even after our first game, we turned around and had practice. We are really working at this. We’re going for the state championship. We’re not coming out nervous. It’s going to be big.”
McAllister said there is only one step Pleasant Grove can make that would be an improvement from last season.
“There is a feeling in that locker room that we are back to where we were last year,” he said. “They aren’t going to be happy unless they get one step further. It’s been that way all year. We have to get one game further than we did last year. I like the fact that they are dialed in on that thought. We will play whoever shows up tomorrow and it’s going to be a great game. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Vikings will face American Fork/Davis in Saturday’s 6A title game, which is scheduled to tip off at 5 p.m. at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.