Only a few miles separate Pleasant Grove and American Fork high schools, and the players on each team freely admit they know each other well.
But there were few explanations why the Vikings were able to handily dispatch the Cavemen 56-38 Friday night in a Region 4 game.
“I’m not sure it was our defense,” said Pleasant Grove coach Randy McAllister. “They just had an off night.”
“Good teams make shots,” noted American Fork coach Doug Meacham. “Nobody was really ‘clicking’ tonight. Now, we’ll find out what we’re made of.”
Pleasant Grove’s Matthew Van Komen probably had something to do with that. The 7-foot-3 junior center altered several shots when the Vikings took control with an 11-0 run during the second and third quarters and then an 8-0 streak in the final stanza.
Van Komen also scored 20 points as Pleasant Grove improved its record to 15-4 overall and 2-2 in region. A loss would have given the Vikings some serious worries, but instead they jumped from fourth place in region into a tie for second.
Van Komen felt his team take control early in the second quarter when the Vikings rallied from an 18-11 deficit and held American Fork without a basket until 6:47 remained in the third period and Pleasant Grove had a 29-20 lead.
“We’re making our run for state,” said Van Komen. “We haven’t got any breaks the last couple of games. We needed this one.”
American Fork needed it, too, and fell to 10-9 overall and 1-3 in region. The Cavemen rallied to within 31-27 before another Van Komen block started a run of eight straight points, changed the momentum, and the rest of the game became a Viking dunk-a-thon featuring Van Komen and Jesse Boggess.
The Cavemen are tied with Bingham for the fourth — and final — playoff spot. They play at first-place Lone Peak next, and Meacham admitted they need at least two wins in their last four games to make the 6A state tournament.
“We need to steal one at someone else’s place and take care of business at home.”
In order to do that, they need to find their shooting. With Van Komen protecting the basket, American Fork shot just 30 percent from the field Friday night and made only 3 of 21 from 3-point range.
The Cavemen tried to find someone to ignite the offense. Mecham attempted several lineup combinations, but only Isaac Johnson, the team’s 6-11 center who averages 19.6 points per game, could provide much help. He had 14 points while Trey Stewart had eight. Zachary McWhorter, American Fork’s 6-8 forward, was held scoreless and plagued with foul trouble most of the night.
“They’re better shooters than that,” McAllister said. “We’ve seen that on tape. Traditionally, this is a fun rivalry and anything can happen.”
Bruce Smith grew up in Boise and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high school sports articles for the Deseret News.