For three weeks in gymnasiums from Cedar City to Ogden, high school athletes gave everything they had to a game. All of the spring leagues, summer workouts, early mornings and late nights came down to moments. Whether they played for the top-ranked 5A school or the smallest 1A school, these athletes ignored the fatigue in their legs, the fear in their hearts and the taunts of the crowd to hit pressure-packed free throws, win critical rebounds, make game-turning defensive stops and, yes, heart-stopping, shake-your-head-in-disbelief 3-point beauties. After three weeks of watching the heroics of teenage hoop stars, I thought it would be enjoyable to relive a few of the most dramatic plays — starting with Jalen Moore's shot, taken as he's falling out of bounds and time expires with the score tied at 60. But in remembering some of the moments that made teams winners on the scoreboard, I feel it's important to remember what Bryce Valley coach Eric Jessen said in an email the day after his team earned the 1A championship and dedicated the win to the coach's son, Jesse, who was killed in a car accident just as he prepared to start his junior year. "In basketball and other games we have to declare a winner and a loser," he said. "With kids, each one who pushes forward is the winner." With that in mind, I would also like to say thank you to all of the student athletes and their dedicated coaches for one of the most memorable playoff seasons I've experienced.
OGDEN — At the final buzzer, Moore lofted up a shot from half court that found the bottom of the net, sent the home crowd into a frenzy and, most importantly, sent Sky View to the 4A state championship.
"I can't even describe what this feels like right now," Moore said. "To hit a shot like that — it's just amazing, and I'm just so happy for my teammates who worked so hard and for all of our fans. Our fans are amazing and they earned it — we all earned this."
RICHFIELD — St. Josep's Katie Panushka was actually trying to draw a foul when she stepped around a Rich defender, leaned to the left and tossed up a rawhide prayer.
"Miracle of miracles," said St. Joseph coach Joe Cravens of the 3-point shot that sent his team's 1A semifinal game against the Rebels into the first of two overtimes in a game the Jayhawks eventually won, 56-44.
>> St. Joseph's Katie Panushka drives into the lane during play against Layton Christian Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 in Layton.
CEDAR CITY — Shelby Allred likes to take the big shots.
But the Emery senior had never hit a shot as big as the 3-pointer she nailed from the top of the key Friday afternoon that gave her team a 45-44 win at SUU.
"She's got a girl coming at her. She's got a hand in her face. That's never the designed play," Emery coach Dean Stilson said of Allred's shot, which she hit with 30 seconds remaining.
"But you want those players on your team that are going to step up and they're going to shoot that shot," Stilson continued. "They're not afraid to."
CEDAR CITY — "The basketball gods are shining on us. Things worked out," Gunnison coach Ben Hill said after Caldwell drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 49-46 victory over Emery on Friday night at Southern Utah University.
"We got him on the left side of the court, right where we need him to create with his right hand and go. And that's his shot."
>> Wasatch Tiger Kaz Mogle drives past Colby Caldwell of the Gunnison Bulldogs during the 2A championship game in Cedar City on Saturday February 23, 2013.
RICHFIELD — It was center Logan LeFevre who sent the game into its second overtime when Braxton Syrett's shot bounced off the rim and LeFevre grabbed it and sent it back up, through the hoop as time expired.
"I knew my time would come when I could prove myself," said LeFevre, who'd struggled to score in the game, finishing with 9 points. "When the rebound came to me, it was just kind of natural to turn and look for the basket, and I just tried to do my best to make that shot . . . It was like we had a second chance."
>> Logan LeFevre (21) attempts to block a shot as the Bryce Valley Mustangs capture the boys 1A basketball state championship by defeating the Duchesne Eagles, 68-59, in double overtime. (Gary Czenkus)
RICHFIELD — In the second overtime, the Mustangs led by one point until, with less than a minute remaining, freshman Kix Roundy hit a 3-point shot and then hustled down the court to grab the rebound from a Duchesne miss.
"I was behind him saying, 'No, No, Yes!'" said coach Eric Jessen with a grin.
Roundy was, as he always is, matter-of-fact about hitting the critical shot.
"I saw an opening . . . and I guess it went in," he said. "It was crazy. It was fun, though."
>> Kix Roundy (25) attempts to deflect a pass as the Bryce Valley Mustangs capture the boys 1A basketball state championship by defeating the Duchesne Eagles, 68-59, in double overtime. (Gary Czenkus)
TAYLORSVILLE — Price scored nine of her 11 points in the final quarter, including making a play with 2:05 to go that gave the Lancers the lead they would cling to until Bingham's final 3-point attempt fell short.
Price drove to the basket and was fouled and made the layup and the one free throw, which gave Layton a 36-34 lead. A steal by Cassidy Anderson led to Price being fouled on a fast break, and she hit both of those freebies. She also hit the two free throws that gave Layton the 41-38 win.
>> Layton's Ashley Price drives around Alta's Rachel Jenson as Layton and Alta play Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 in quarterfinal action at Salt Lake Community College.
TAYLORSVILLE — Harley Hansen hit a layup with 3.2 seconds left in regulation and tied the game 37-37. She said the play wasn't designed for anyone in particular. The shot pushed Fremont's first-round playoff game against top-seeded Viewmont to go into overtime.
"It was supposed to go to anyone," she said with a shrug. "We just needed to take a layup."
>>Fremont celebrates as Fremont High School defeats Viewmont High School 46-45 in overtime as they play in the first round of the 5A girl's basketball tournament Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, in Taylorsville. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)
TAYLORSVILLE — The overtime was as back-and-forth as the rest of the 32-minute game had been and looked like it might be headed to a second overtime when sophomore Shelbee Molen was fouled with three seconds remaining. She made 1 of 2 to give Fremont a 46-45 lead that it would hang onto despite Viewmont's best effort.
>> Fremont's Shelbee Molen and American Fork's Ashely Baugh chase down a lose ball as American Fork and Fremont play Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 in quarterfinal action at Salt Lake Community College. Fremont won 49-26.
Tyler Crosbie scored on a layup with 1:38 remaining and then Faimafili Laulu-Pututau converted a 3-point play to stretch the lead to 52-48 with 56 seconds remaining. It was only the second time the Mustangs led Logan, but it would end in a 54-51 victory.
"Sheer will. Wasn't too pleased with (Crosbie) in the first half, but as we got down to crunch time there are just certain things you expect great players to do," said coach Graydon Buchmiller.
>> Mountain Crest's No. 0 Tyler Crosbie, right, drives on Hillcrest's No. 10 Ben Katzenbach as Hillcrest and Mountain Crest play Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 in the first round of the state boys basketball tournament at the Maverik Center in West Valley City.