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Bingham bombs way into championship

Football has always been called the game of inches, but if you were in attendance for the Bingham-Orem 5A semifinals game Wednesday night, you'd beg to differ.

Trailing by one, Orem's Jenny Chalmers appeared to hit a 3-pointer with just 15 seconds left to play. Everybody thought it was a three, except for one official who said her foot was "an inch over the line.""It was a three," said Orem coach Scott Houle. "She was standing on the line when she caught the ball, but Jenny has a bad habit of stepping back when she shoots. The official saw her on the line when she caught the pass, but didn't look when she shot."

So instead of leading by two, Orem led by only a single point. That left the door, and the lane, wide open for Bingham's Megan Lofthouse to hit the game winner with two seconds left as the Miners won 66-65.

After a timeout, where Miners' coach Rand Rasmussen told Lofthouse to simply "take it," Lofthouse did exactly that.

Starting at the top of the three-point circle, Lofthouse went right off a screen, drove the lane and banked in a runner for the win.

Orem's April Atuai's desperation 30-footer went off the back of the rim, again missing just by inches, as the buzzer sounded. And suddenly, that inch on Chalmers' 3-pointer seemed bigger than 10 miles.

"It's heart breaking," said Houle. "To lose after fighting so hard, it's hard."

Not for Lofthouse. She could only smile after what she did.

"Coach has always given me the ball at the end of close games," said Lofthouse. "We have a set play where it's my job just to create. I saw an opening and went for it. This is the best feeling you could have."

Bingham entered the game as heavy favorites, as everybody expected a showdown between it and Mountain View for the title. But Rasmussen never it saw it that way.

"All week long people have been telling me, `You're going to blow them out by 25,' " said Rasmussen. "Well, those people are idiots. I told my team that it would be close. I knew it'd come down to one or two points. I was right."

Early on, though, it seemed "those people" were right. The Miners jumped out to a quick 26-9 first quarter lead, using an overbearing full-court press and a barrage of three-pointers.

But the Tigers roared back.

Behind the strong inside play of Kristen Saliby, Orem simply out-musc-led the smaller Miners. It seemed every time an Orem player missed, Saliby was there for an offensive rebound and putback. It was Saliby's rebound and layup that gave the Tigers their first lead with 7:37 left in the game.

Saliby scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, 24 in the game, that allowed Orem to build its lead up to seven with only 3:10 left.

That's when Lofthouse took over. The Bingham senior scored her team's last six points and nine in the quarter, including the game-winner, to send the Miners to the championship. Amazingly, she did it all with four fouls.

"When the game's tight, I'm going to Megan," said Rasmussen. "I'll never take her out at the end of a close game. Once you get this far, you play to win."

Now the stage is set for one of the most anticipated finals match-ups in recent history. Nationally ranked Mountain View and Bingham have been the class of 5A all season, and will finally have a chance to see who's best.

Seems like Rasmussen's already decided that, though.

"This year's tournament is being played for second place," he said. "Mountain View is too good. I'm thinking about going on vacation and letting my assistants coach the game. The only guarantee I can give you is we won't forfeit."