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High school basketball: American Fork girls advance to 5A semifinals

TAYLORSVILLE — Though the American Fork Cavemen advanced to the semifinals of the 5A state girls basketball tournament and made it another step along the way to the defense of their title, the way they played against Fremont didn't bring out much joy from Caveman coach Corey Clayton.

"I told their coach I thought they deserved that more than we did. We had major issues everywhere," said Clayton following the game.

"I'm glad that one's over. Now we can throw that game film away," he added, while noting that he'd rather win ugly than lose pretty.

The Cavemen didn't look particularly good in their 43-41 victory, but they'll move into the next round against Region 4 rival Pleasant Grove anyway and will play again at 4 p.m. on Friday.

They won with a shooting percentage of 35.6 percent from the field and only 50 percent from the line. They did outrebound the Silver Wolves 38-26 in probably their most impressive stat of the game.

But it wasn't all bad for the Cavemen. Makenzie Moea'i scored a team-high 13 points and picked up 11 rebounds for an impressive double-double. And the girls did have some spots of solid play throughout the game.

"We got two steals and made a couple of layups at the right time of the game. We made some plays when we had to," Clayton said.

He was complimentary of the opponents as well.

"They hit some nice 3s," he said. "They played their hearts out. I have to give them credit. They had a nice game plan and they executed."

Kelsie Bell and LaChere Earl were certainly on the top of their games as Bell finished with 15 points, five rebounds and five steals. Earl did her part from behind the arc with 3-of-5 treys and 11 total points.

Laini Kalumbi did some nice things for the Cavemen with eight points, seven rebounds and four steals, and Amy Krommenhoek contributed eight points, three assists and three steals. Grace Farnsworth added seven points, most of them at key moments.

Clayton said Hayley Su'a-Filo was his most consistent performer of the day with four points, five boards and a pair of steals in addition to her hustle play.

After going into the fourth quarter with a 30-27 deficit, the Silver Wolves started off the fourth with a flourish, ending a nice run by Bell and Earl with a 38-34 lead. But though the Cavemen were not playing their best brand of basketball, they were able to make a few plays on a 7-0 run and not only cut the lead but take a 41-38 lead of their own with 1:08 left in the game.

There was no more scoring until Farnsworth hit one of two from the stripe, giving her team a critical 42-38 lead with 12 seconds left, just before Rilee Rhees sank another trey with 2.5 seconds remaining.

One more free throw by American Fork sealed it as the Silver Wolves threw the ball away when they got it back with 1.6 seconds remaining in the game.

"We played tight. We rushed when we should have been patient. We were passive when we should have been aggressive. But we won," said Clayton, who is hoping his team comes out a little stronger in the semis.

"If we don't we'll be going home."

e-mail: jolsen@desnews.com