Defense and rebounding. It’s what every coach preaches, and for Fremont, it made all the difference in Thursday’s 49-40 semifinal win over Westlake.
Fremont didn’t shoot particularly well — just 37% compared to 50% for Westlake — but the Silverwolves took 13 more shots because of rebounding and steals and it’s now one win away from a repeat 6A state championship.
“I felt like they (were) competitive and they were great in big moments, they hit some big shots when they needed to,” said Fremont coach Lisa Dalebout about her team.
Westlake’s sharp shooting — 8 of 9 in the first quarter — helped it grab the early lead at the University of Utah, which it still held at the midway mark of the second quarter up 24-18
But in a blink it was gone as Fremont closed the first half on a 16-0 run to open up a double-digit halftime lead.
“Our energy on the defensive end and rebounding I think generated some better shots. And they got some turnovers and (got) frustrated a little bit, but man they were tough. They were really hard to get out of their game. They played really smart,” said Dalebout.
Westlake regrouped at halftime and whittled the lead to four once in the third quarter and then five late in the fourth quarter, but Maggie Mendelson converted a couple of big layups late to help Fremont finish things off.
Mendelson finished the game with 14 points while Aly Coombs also added 14 points as she took advantage of Westlake’s defensive focus on Mendelson and Timea Gardiner.
“I think she’s always ready and willing to take open shots and they were doing a really good job of keying on obviously the two bigs so she was a little more open,” said Dalebout about Coombs reaching double-figures scoring.
Coombs also added two offensive rebounds and two steals and that’s where the game was realistically won. Fremont enjoyed a 12-5 edge in offensive rebounds and then forced Westlake into 21 turnovers. The combination led to extra possessions, and that was enough to offset Westlake’s strong shooting night. Late, however, the Thunder only shot 25% in the fourth quarter and Dalebout believes it had something to do with her unconventional substitution patterns early on.
“I’ve never platooned, and I didn’t have any expectation to do it, but I felt like Westlake was kind of weaving and they needed to have some pressure, and to be honest we were trying to wear out some of their shooters so at the end of the game hopefully they didn’t have legs,” said Dalebout.
Fremont, conversely, had its best quarter offensively in the fourth shooting 57% after making just 1 of 13 shots in the third.
With the victory, No. 2 seed Fremont advances to Saturday’s 6A state championship at BYU where it will face No. 1 seed Lone Peak, which beat Herriman on a buzzer beater on Thursday.
The two teams have been on a collision course all year and Saturday’s final will be a great game of contrasting styles.
“They’re great. Their ball skills and shooting makes them really tough. They’re kind our opposites in a lot of ways just their size and their game. I think it will be a really great game,” said Dalebout.
The two programs last met in a 5A quarterfinal game back in 2015 that Fremont won 55-54.