SALT LAKE CITY — Highland has become accustomed to overcoming adversity and did so again on Wednesday, earning itself a convincing 76-64 win over Mountain View and a spot in the 4A state semifinals.
Things ran smoothly for the Rams from the start, but a brush of misfortune hit with just 1:30 remaining in the first half. Holding a comfortable 29-16 lead at the time, starting guard Ryan Lambson drove to the basket and was fouled hard, falling to the floor with an apparent knee injury.
The senior captain remained on the floor for some time before eventually leaving the floor with the help of team trainers.
His team didn't know the extent of the injury at the time but didn't let it affect their play.
“It was sad. He’s like a big part of our team, so I knew that we would fight and I knew that we would win, but my heart goes out to him,” said fellow senior guard Brevin Elsholz.
It was later disclosed that Lambson had dislocated his knee cap and injury he had incurred earlier in the season which caused him to miss about four games. During that stretch, the Rams learned to acclimate without him to some degree, which helped them do the same on Wednesday.
“Adversity is like our best friend, so we’re just fighting and (going) as far as we can,” Elsholz said of his team's mentality.
The Rams wrapped up the first half up 33-16 and decided to rally around the loss of Lambson for the remainder of the contest.
“That’s what we said in the locker room, ‘Let’s do this for Ryan,’ so that’s what we did,” Elsholz said.
The Rams didn't yield the lead throughout the second half with the Bruins never coming to within more than eight points of the lead.
Setting the pace for Highland in that second half, and for most of the game, was Elsholz, who scored a team-high 24 points while going 4 for 8 from 3-point range and 6 of 6 from the line.
“That’s Brevin. He’s a really good offensive player,” said Highland coach Jim Boyce. “His defense has gotten a lot better and we got the big three. We got Ryan (Lambson), Rick (Schmidt) and Brevin. He’s one of those and he’s gone for 20 several times this season. He’s certainly capable.”
As for Schmidt, he chipped in 16 points while adding 10 rebounds.
Mountain View was led again by Brigham Bateman, who led all scorers with 35 points.
With the win, Highland stands as a surprising entrant into the semifinal round and two wins away from a 4A state championship.
“We’re not done,” Boyce said. “That’s the mentality that we’re taking. We’re not done and we plan on playing on Saturday and expecting to win on Friday — no matter who we face. I’m just excited for the opportunity and it’s fun.”
Boyce is aware his team will very possibly be without Lambson for the remainder of the tournament, although remaining optimistic for his return.
“It’s huge,” Boyce said of the potential of losing Lambson. “It’s a huge loss and he’s such an awesome kid. We’re hoping, and he’s a warrior, so we’re hoping he’ll be back. He’s surprised us before as far as coming back from injuries.”
Highland will play Timpview in the 4A state semifinals Friday at 4:10 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.