A mistake when climbing on a steep slope can result in a long fall. The longer it last and the more speed that is build up, the harder it is to arrest the decent.
The Springville girls basketball team probably understands that pretty well, since the Red Devils found themselves in a similar circumstance in Friday’s 5A semifinal game against Lehi at Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville.
For three quarters, Springville imposed its style of basketball on the game and build what appeared to be an insurmountable 42-26 lead early in the final period.
But the Pioneers weren’t going down that easily as they ramped up the intensity to a fever pitch, forcing a number of Red Devil mistakes. In a matter of minutes, the 16-point Springville advantage was cut to just four points (44-40).
The Red Devils needed to stop the free fall and it was up to Springville sophomore guard Kayla Porray.
She was fouled with a minute to play and headed to the line for a pressure-packed one-and-one.
“It was intense,” Porray said. “If I missed the free throw, it meant they could come back. But I’ve worked hard on my free throws and on being mentally tough. I just focused on it being just me and the rim.”
Her trust in her stroke proved well-founded as the ball nestled softly into the basket. She then duplicated the feat, giving her team a much-needed boost. It was enough to keep Lehi at bay as the Red Devils held on for the 49-42 win and earned a return trip to the 5A state championship game.
“I had been getting on Kayla all game long but she stayed tough and knocked those free throws down,” Springville head coach Holli Averett said. “We were trying to stay composed and play smart offense. Maybe we needed to clarify because we wanted to get layups, not to stall. We missed some foul shots but when we made some, it calmed us down.”
Red Devil senior forward Addisyn Johnson said that the biggest challenge at the end was being strong mentally.
“We had to stay tough and break things down,” Johnson said. “Lehi is definitely a tough team and they played awesome. We have our strengths and they have theirs. We had to control things and play our game. It was a great game. I always love playing against Lehi.”
Springville got going first and built a seven-point lead in the first quarter, only to see the Pioneers rally to tie the game at 21-21 at halftime.
After an exchange of treys at the beginning of the third, the Red Devils got rolling. They scored 18 of the next 20 points to take control.
Lehi head coach Sean Seastrand said that Springville run put his squad in a tough position.
“Against a team like that, it is so hard to come back,” Seastrand said. “They are so patient. They make you defend for a long time then get a layup. They have an identity and stick to it.”
He loved how his squad pushed itself and gave itself a chance near the end.
“Things got chaotic and desperate,” Seastrand said. “It just turned out to be too little too late for us.”
Johnson led the way for the Red Devils as she scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. Springville also got 12 points from senior guard Kayla Jackson.
Lehi was paced by 20 points from senior guard Macie Warren, while junior forward Jamisyn Heaton had 11 points and seven boards.
Seastrand said that it was clear both teams were hungry to get to the title game but the Red Devils were the ones to get the job done. That, however, doesn’t take anything away from what the Pioneers accomplished.
“It was a great season and I love these girls,” Seastrand said. “This group of seniors put Lehi on the map. We are a top program because of them. That is their legacy. That’s about as good of a compliment as you can give these kids.”
Springville, who lost to Highland in the 2020 5A championship, will now get another opportunity to add a title to the Red Devil collection.
“It’s because of all the hard work and how much we put in,” Johnson said. “We have been pushing ourselves all season to be ready for the state tournament. Now we have to go out and stick to our game plan and not back down.”
Porray added: “We are proud and excited — but we’re not satisfied.”
Springville will fact Farmington in the championship, which is scheduled to take place at Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville on Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m.