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High school boys basketball: Viewmont's unlikely superstar stuns Lone Peak

OGDEN — With a chance to end Lone Peak’s four-year reign, Viewmont coach Jeff Emery drew up three options for his players as they came out of a timeout with 11 seconds remaining.

Josh Richins was one of those three options, but he never expected to touch the ball. He figured Austin Johnson or Jake Walker, far and away Viewmont’s best scorers, would take the last shot with the score tied.

That doesn’t mean Richins wasn’t ready.

The play Emery drew up is something Viewmont practices every day — plus he’s gone through the scenario a thousands times in his head of a game-winning shot in the playoffs.

So when Walker kicked the ball to Richins in the corner with two seconds left, Richins was anxious to let fly. To the delight of 5A teams the past four years — and no doubt this year too — Richins buried the baseline 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, capping Viewmont’s unlikely 64-61 victory over Lone Peak at the Dee Events Center on Wednesday.

The basket was only Richins’ second of the game.

“I wasn’t expecting it. I was expecting Austin or Jake ’cause they are go-to men, but they were unselfish and they gave it to me, which credit to them,” said Richins.

Richins’ 3-pointer was the 11th of the game for Viewmont, vital for a team that realistically lives and dies by the 3-pointer.

“All year long we’ve had to make perimeter shots for us to be good against anybody,” said Emery.

His team was better than good against Lone Peak, making 11-of-24 and a scintillating 7-of-11 in the second half.

The game was well-played throughout, but the final 97 seconds were an exercise in execution with points being scored on the final seven possessions.

Viewmont went ahead 57-54 on two free throws by Jamison Smith, but Nick Curtis answered back with two free throws by Lone Peak. With 1:10 remaining, Walker stretched Viewmont’s lead back to 59-56 on a pair of free throws, but Lone Peak sophomore Christian Popoola responded with a clutch angle-right 3-pointer, tying the game at 59-59.

Walker again made two free throws, giving Viewmont a 61-59 edge with 26 seconds remaining, but Curtis came up huge again for Lone Peak with a rebound-putback with 11 seconds remaining to tie the game at 61-61.

“(Lone Peak) had guys stop up and make big shots,” said Emery.

Incredibly, Frank Jackson didn’t make any of those big shots in the fourth quarter. The state’s leading scorer at 27.3 ppg, who was also coming off a 32-point outing in Monday’s first round, was held to just 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

Emery chalked it up to good defense and good fortune.

“Jackson’s as good a player as I’ve seen at this level. He’s so effortless in what he does. He’s one of those special guys that can create his own shot. You just don’t have a lot of high school guys that can do that. (We) just tried to make him work and hope that he had a night that wasn’t quite like he had on Monday,” said Emery.

Other Lone Peak players did step up, including Popoola, who had 19 points, with Curtis adding 13.

After Curtis’ putback tied the game at 61-61, Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis immediately called a timeout to set up the defense.

During the timeout, Emery set up the offense.

“We had three options, Walker off the ball screen, Johnson off the pick and pop if they double it or hedge it, and then if we turn the corner we look for the draw and kick, and hope somebody buries one,” said Emery.

That somebody was Richins, who Emery said is one of Viewmont’s best shooters.

“If you can beat Lone Peak in any arena, any time of the year, preseason, season, your kids played a heck of a ballgame,” said Emery.

Walker led Viewmont with 23 points to go along with his seven rebounds and five assists, while Johnson added 19 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Viewmont will face region rival Layton in the 5A semifinals on Friday at 4:10 p.m. The teams split the season series.

The third quarter was huge for Viewmont. Trailing 31-24 at the half, the Vikings outscored Lone Peak 21-13 in the third to take a 45-44 lead.

Walker and Johnson both hit a pair of 3-pointers in the quarter.

“If you’re playing from behind, double digits in the fourth quarter against Lone Peak, you’re in a lot of trouble,” said Emery. “Closing the gap that third quarter, I think that really lifted our confidence and gave us an opportunity for our kids to start believing we can get this thing done. It’s amazing how confidence and momentum is so big in any athletic contest.”

James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.