It was easy to see why Viewmont's boys basketball team has gone undefeated this season after watching it Tuesday night in the Salt Palace. For three quarters of their opening round game in the 4A state tournament, the Vikings had been in a dogfight with American Fork. It was either team's game to win.
But when crunch time rolled around, the Vikes showed poise that would make Kristi Yamaguchi green with envy. Twenty-four times Viewmont players stepped to the foul line in the final eight minutes. Twenty-two times the ball found the bottom of the net."That's got to be some sort of record," American Fork coach Bob Eckles said in amazement after Viewmont's near-perfect performance down the stretch from the charity stripe.
The result was a 63-46 Viking victory.
Viewmont, which improved to 21-0 on the year, led the entire game, but couldn't manage to shake the pesky Cavemen. The Vikings held a six-point halftime lead and had a five-point bulge at the end of three quarters. American Fork's Chris Bates cut the margin to three-points, at 39-36, early in the fourth quarter, but right about the time the Vikes took control. Viewmont outscored the Cavemen 24-10 the rest of the way, with all but two of its points coming from the free throw line.
"I think we just wore them down in the fourth quarter," Viewmont coach Clyde Nelson said. "They got tired and started to foul and we were able to make our foul shots. It was to our advantage that we go nine players deep because I think we were fresher at the end."
The star of the game for Viewmont was 6-foot-7 forward Andy Jensen, who made 8-11 shots from the field and all five free throws en route to a game-high 21 points.
While Jensen had a fine game, Eckles was just as impressed, if not more so, with Viewmont's guardline of Jason Pitt and John Robison. "I don't think Viewmont is any more talented than a lot of teams. What sets them apart is that they have two guards that are in absolute control of the game," Eckles said. "Sure Jensen scores a lot of points, but it's those two guards that get the ball into his hands."
Robison made all eight of his free throws and finished with 12 points, while Pitt had a game-high four assists to go along with five points.
Next up for Viewmont is a quarterfinal game Thursday at 4:10 p.m. against Skyline and high-scoring JaRon Boone. "We'll have our work cut out for us," Nelson said.
American Fork will face West Jordan in a consolation bracket game Thursday.
In other 4A tournament action Tuesday:
Skyline 56, West Jordan 49
JaRon Boone, Skyline's 6-foot-4 swingman, showed he could do it all. He had a game-high in points , rebounds , assists and blocked shots to lead the Eagles to the victory. Teammate Scott Brienholt added 21 points and eight boards.
The Eagles led by four at the half, but changed from a man-to-man defense to a 1-2-1 zone in the third quarter, helping them build a 10-point advantage. West Jordan pulled back to within four points midway through the fourth quarter, but Boone quickly responded with a three-point jumper to give Skyline a more comfortable advantage.
The Jaguars were led by Matt Gronning' 12 points, while Ken Wamsley added 11.
Next up for Skyline is top-ranked, unbeaten Viewmont. "(Viewmont has) a lot of depth, good size and they always battle," Skyline coach Paul Jeppesen said. "I don't think they have any weaknesses."
Alta 42, Hillcrest 38
It was a close battle all the way, but both teams seemed to try to give the game away at the end. With Alta holding a 42-38 lead, the Hawks missed the front end of five straight one-and-one free throw opportunities in the final 35 seconds. It didn't matter, however, as the Huskies were unable to capitalize.
"I think we might have wanted it too much and it put the kids in a tough situation," Alta coach Ron Carling said. "We usually are a pretty good free throw shooting team."
The Hawks trailed by three points going into the fourth quarter, but Spencer Wagner nailed two consecutive three-pointers early in the fourth to give Alta the momentum and Nick Proud added six points down the stretch. Proud finished with a team-high 13 points, while Jason Williams paced Hillcrest with 14.
Alta will face Timpview in a quarterfinal game Thursday at 8:10 p.m., while Hillcrest and Clearfield will meet in a 6:30 consolation contest.
Timpview 75, Clearfield 60
The Thunderbirds trailed by one at the half, but outscored the Falcons 18-5 in the third quarter to take control of the game. Timpview center Galen Anderson was almost perfect for the game, making 10-11 shots from the field. He finished with a game-high 25 points. Doug Henstrom added 22 points, while pulling down eight rebounds.
Clearfield was paced by Cory Johnson's 15 points, while Derrick Martin added 14 for the Falcons.