The Springville boys basketball knew it had its hands full as the Red Devils faced a talented Woods Cross team in Thursday's 5A semifinal at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
The Wildcats had length, athleticism and great shooting -- but Springville countered with never-say-die determination.
Woods Cross drilled 10 3-pointers to go up by as many as 15 points but the Red Devils made a furious fourth-quarter rally to go up by a point in the final minute.
The Wildcats missed a shot but a held ball on the rebound gave Woods Cross one final chance. Another missed shot became a Wildcat offensive rebound with under 10 seconds left as Springville couldn't get the ball back.
But, just like they had all game, the Red Devils didn't let those failures bother them. Springville knocked the ball away and senior guard Austin Mortensen gathered it in and was fouled.
“Credit for that goes to our coaches because yesterday in practice we literally went over those exact plays they were doing,” Mortensen said. “We knew what was coming. We knew exactly what to do.”
He made 1-of-2 free throws with 4.3 seconds left and Woods Cross's final shot was off the mark, resulting in the improbable 71-69 Red Devil win.
“That final shot was scary but he missed it,” Mortensen said. “There is no better feeling in the world than knowing you are going to the state championship.”
Springville head coach Justin Snell said his team just never gave up.
“I was trying to get my guys to understand that the game is never over until the final horn sounds,” Snell said. “This group of eight seniors plays hard no matter what. I was trying to give them the confidence that we had no pressure. If we made a shot, then they were going to grip. The boys just kept working and working.”
After falling behind after the break, the Red Devils came back behind defensive intensity and an aggressive offensive mentality.
“They were shooting the lights out and we were down by 10 points with little time left,” Mortensen said. “The eight seniors got together and said this is not going to be our last game. We came out on top.”
A block and a save by Springville senior center Zack Visentin and a pull-up 3-pointer by senior guard Cooper Riggs cut the Wildcat lead to just 69-66 with under two minutes to play, then the Red Devils forced a Woods Cross turnover to have a chance to tie or get closer.
Visentin came up big when the ball went inside and he drained the sky hook to make it a one-point game with exactly one minute left in the contest.
The sequence repeated itself as Springville forced another turnover, then Visentin got to the ball and put it in again to complete the comeback.
That turned out to be the points that gave Springville the lead for good as the Red Devils hung on.
“The final feeling was relief,” Snell said. “.You have eight seniors on the floor who deserve to have everything but with the understanding that most of the time it doesn’t work that way. I was just relieved that the boys get to play one more time and I get to coach them one more time.”
The first half was a game of runs as the two talented squads put together spurts of offensive success.
Woods Cross started up by going up 11-4 but the Red Devils responded with a 12-0 push to go up by five. The Wildcats put together an 9-1 run, followed by a Springville scoring seven straight to close the gap again.
It would be Woods Cross that would make the big surge, one that started at the end of the second quarter and carried over into the third. The Wildcats outscored the Red Devils 21-7 to build a double-digit lead.
Springville tried to respond but struggled to make shots after the break as Woods Cross initially pulled away.
In the end, however, the Red Devils were able to make just enough plays to get the win.
Springville moved on to face Timpview in the 5A state championship at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.