Thursday’s 6A semifinal between Lone Peak and Herriman was tied at 49 with 1:48 to play following a game-tying free throw from Herriman’s Halli Burbidge.

In a playoff game, 1:48 can be a long amount of time, but it felt like an eternity to Lone Peak head coach Nancy Warner, who knew that she wanted her team to be the one taking the game’s final shot. 

In a brilliant display of execution — that won’t be possible next season when the shot clock is introduced — the Knights possessed the ball the entire 108 seconds of play.

With 2.8 seconds left on the clock, Lone Peak’s Makeili Ika saw an open lane and attacked it. The junior point guard drove right and dropped in the game-winning shot to punch the team’s ticket into the 6A championship game. 

Naia Tanuvasa picked off Herriman’s inbounds pass on the next play, sealing a 51-49 victory for the Knights. 

“We were supposed to be looking for a backdoor (cut) to Kailey Woolston, but I just saw an open lane and figured I would take it all the way,” Ika said of her game-winning play.

Ika, who was 2 for 9 from the field before the game-winning shot, said that she just had to switch on her aggressive mentality on the play.

“I knew that we’re a really young team and we hadn’t been to a championship game in a while, but I knew that we could do it all together. I did it for my teammates and for my family,” Ika said. 

It wasn’t a typical game for the top-seeded Knights, who were losing at halftime for the first time all season. 

Trailing by as much as 10 points in the opening quarters, Lone Peak players and coaches went to their locker room knowing something needed to change.

The Mustangs shot 43% from the field and 50% from the 3-point line in the opening half of play.

“I’m telling you, it’s been a while since I’ve seen an opponent shoot that well,” Warner said of the Mustangs. “Credit to them, they played hard and the way they shot the ball was incredible. We knew we needed to get stops defensively, one at a time, and the players took that to heart coming out of halftime.”

The Knights were finally able to string together some stops to start the third period and rattled off a 10-0 run to swing the momentum their way.

But Herriman’s offense, which finished with 14 assists on 17 made field goals, continued to hum at times and kept the game close until the end despite Lone Peak’s post-halftime resurgence. 

Mustang senior Lexi Jensen was a handful for Lone Peak all afternoon. Jensen finished with a game-high 20 points, five assists and four rebounds, on 50% shooting from the field. 

“Lexi is such a good player and she has the best attitude,” Ika said of Jensen. “I’ve played with her and against her, but whenever I’m playing against her I’m always like, ‘Woah, I have to remember to keep moving my feet.’ She’s a good sport and an even better player.”

The Knights were once again led by junior Woolston, who finished with 17 points. Tanuvasa, who scored all of her 11 points in the first half, played a critical role in keeping Lone Peak in the game after the Mustangs mostly controlled the game for the first 16 minutes of gameplay. 

Lone Peak also received strong contributions from 5-foot-6 sophomore Shawnee Nordstrom, who scored 13 points and grabbed a team-high eight boards.

When the Knights trailed 48-47 with three minutes left in the game, it was Nordstrom who stole the ball and converted a fast break layup to give her team a late lead. 

“Shawnee is a true competitor and I see that fire in her eyes all the time,” Warner said of the unfazed sophomore guard. “Coming in here, the lights aren’t too bright for her. She rises to the occasion and I think she did that and showed that today.”

After the final buzzer sounded, the Knights ran to celebrate their title game berth with their fellow students, a moment that Ika said was special for her and her teammates, who will now play for a championship at a location closer to home on Saturday at BYU’s Marriott Center — the same place where Warner played her college ball. 

Getting the win against the Mustangs, who bounced the Knights in last season’s semifinals, made it that much sweeter for Ika and her teammates, many of whom played in last year’s game. 

“I was like, ‘This is a revenge tour for us,’” Ika said with a smile. “We had to get it this time, so we knew we couldn’t step back, we had to keep going.”