The score of the box
Heading into the fourth quarter of Thursday’s semi-final between Highland and Timpview, the momentum seemed to be entirely on the side of the Thunderbirds.
Timpview closed the third period on a 14-6 run to cut the Rams’ lead to just five points, the lowest since the opening minutes of the game.
It was time for Highland – a team which, according to head coach Sala Asiata, had struggled with free throws at times this season – to show what they were made of at the crucial moment of their biggest game of the year. .
By a final score of 59-46, the subclass-heavy Rams pulled themselves together and closed out the game in convincing fashion to clinch their ticket to the 5A semi-finals.
Led by guards Sophia Legate and Sosefina Langi, Highland went 18-for-21 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, dashing Timpview’s hopes of a potential comeback.
Asiata said his players just got locked in a game they never hung out in.
“They knew going in that it was going to be a tough game, so they understood that they needed a mentality of sticking together,” Asiata said.
“Even though we struggled on the line this season, we were able to hit them when needed.”
Langi finished 14 for 18 from the foul line, while Legate completed a perfect 6 for 6.
“I knew we had to block the game on the line, so we focused and did it,” Legate said. “We stayed calm and came together at every free throw to always make sure we were all on the same page.”
Legate scored a game-high 19 points and did so effectively, shooting 55% from the field and 60% from beyond the arc, while Langi finished with 16 points to go with six boards .
Although the Rams showed great mental toughness knocking down their free throws in the clutch, Legate said the rebound was key to winning the game.
Highland outshot Timpview 42-27 on the night and finished with more offensive rebounds (17) than the Thunderbirds had defensive boards (14).
The rebound totals were bolstered by an underrated performance from Cecilia Olevao. Although the 5-foot-11 junior scored just one point on the night, she dominated the glass, finishing with 17 boards.
Asiata said it’s performances like Olevao’s that win tough games like Monday’s.
“(Cecilia) is a big part of what we do,” Asiata said. “She does a lot of little things, and that’s exactly what we need.
“As coaches we preach box outs and hard rebounds so I loved his effort and it showed tonight. Seventeen boards. You can’t get much better than that.
The Rams went 2-3 for the entire game, a strategy Asiata said he and his team hoped after watching the film would confuse the Thunderbirds.
It’s safe to say that the Rams coaching staff’s assessment was spot on, as the Thunderbirds struggled to find uncontested shots that didn’t force them to shoot over the area.
Timpview shot 28.6 percent from the field and 26 percent from the 3-point line, with nearly half of their total field goal attempts coming from downtown.
The Rams’ win means a matchup with No. 1 seed Lehi on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Well aware that their toughest test is once again on the horizon, Legate and Asiata said they respect the Pioneers but won’t think too much about the matchup.
“There’s nothing we can say (to the team) other than they should treat it like a normal game,” Asiata said.
“We can’t get caught up in the hype. We just have to make sure we’re locked in and ready. We’ll just keep the mentality we’ve had all year: respect everyone we play with, but fear no one. »