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High school basketball: Pleasant Grove pulls out close win over Alta

SANDY — The Pleasant Grove Vikings found themselves locked in a tight and heated contest Tuesday night at Alta High School. The Hawks, sporting a less-than-stellar record, had given the undefeated Vikings everything they could handle. Star center Matthew Van Komen had been shut down for most of the night, and Alta’s own star, Connor Fulton, had exploded for 27 points.

With the game on the line and a precarious two-point lead, Pleasant Grove turned to senior David Peterson. The guard, with just under 15 seconds remaining in the game, calmly sank two free throws to give the visitors a four-point lead. Those extra points proved to be all the difference. Thanks in large part to Peterson, as well as Keanu Akina, who led the team with 15 points, the Vikings defeated Alta 62-58.

“It was huge,” Pleasant Grove head coach Randy McAllister said of the play of Peterson and Akina, as well as that of his other guards. “We have a really deep guard bench. They are all good ball handlers and shooters. Really, our team is one center (Van Komen) and a bunch of guards. I thought they did a great job of being mentally tough and playing the way they are capable of playing. Give Alta credit, they play very physical, and I thought we did a good job of handling it.”

The first quarter belonged to the Hawks. After an early barrage of 3-pointers, courtesy of both sides, the home team seized control of the game. Fulton’s impact, the Hawks' leading scorer this season, was quite noticeable. The senior finished the period with eight points, a mark that was half of his team's output. The Vikings, meanwhile, were unable to create any sort of consistent offense and were fairly lucky be down only six points at the end of the quarter.

Pleasant Grove bounced back to start the second quarter, behind the play of Akina and Van Koman. Akina came into the game averaging 12.5 points per game, and it showed. The senior guard hit a big three and made two timely free throws to cut the Alta lead to four points.

After the initial Pleasant Grove surge, however, it was all the Hawks. Forward Armanni Levin was especially key, and his five points allowed Alta to go into the half with its six-point lead intact.

“Defensively we weren’t really that bad in the first half, but our offense was atrocious” McAllister said. “Our turnovers, our shot selection. Really, we missed some pretty easy shots. At halftime, our adjustment was to take better care of the ball, work the ball around more and be a little stronger against their physicality.”

As part of their adjustments, the Vikings decided to pressure and trap the Alta ball handlers, a tactic that worked to perfection. The Hawks struggled with the increased pressure throughout the third quarter, and Pleasant Grove took advantage. The visitors exploded for 17 points in the period, and held Alta to a mere nine points.

Akina was again huge for the Vikings. His seven points, along with five points from Casey Brown, gave the Pleasant Grove offense a completely different look.

As for the fourth quarter, it was about as competitive as they come. Van Komen finally broke through for the Vikings. He scored seven points in the quarter and finished the game with 13.

Peterson chipped in seven points of his own, including his game-sealing free throws.

And yet for every score by the Vikings, the Hawks, Fulton in particular, had an answer. Fulton scored eight points in the final period, all of which seemed to come when Pleasant Grove appeared primed to pull away.

When it was all said and done, however, the Vikings were the victors and owners of a perfect record.

Up next, Pleasant Grove (5-0) will play Friday night against Springville High School, while Alta (1-3) will play Olympus.

EMAIL: twood@bonneville.com