It had been nearly a year since an in-state team had given top-seeded Lone Peak a legitimate scare. The last time any team finished within one possession of the Knights was in last season’s 6A championship game, where Lone Peak edged out Fremont 67-65 in double overtime.
So when their semifinal matchup against the Silverwolves was solidified, the Knights knew they would be facing a team not only hungry to get to the 6A title game, but hungry for some revenge as well.
“I’d want revenge (if I were them),” said Lone Peak’s Makeili Ika, who hit the title clinching shot against Fremont last year. “I’m sure they felt that way and wanted to come out hot.”
But, like they had all season, the Knights started the game in a way that made them look virtually unbeatable. From start to finish Lone Peak never trailed as it rolled its way to a 67-45 semi final victory over fifth-seeded Fremont, securing its spot in the 6A title game for the second straight year.
While film from last year’s title game was reviewed in preparation for the game, Ika said the Knights wanted to come in with just this season in mind.
“We played them in past seasons and knew they were a really good team, but we tried to pretend we’d never played them before.” Ika said. “We could’ve been better, but we came locked-in and we kept the energy high.”
The method of preparation worked out well for the Knights, who finished the first half of play shooting 64% from the field, 60% from the 3-point line and 100% from the foul line. The scalding-hot shooting saw Lone Peak up 19 points at halftime, sending Fremont to the locker room with a steep hill climb to think about.
With just over two minutes left in the second quarter though, Fremont looked like it was going to go into the break within striking distance, as it cut Lone Peak’s lead to single digits for the first time since the opening quarter.
But the Knights responded like defending champs should.
Ika nailed a corner three on the next possession, followed by two more 3-pointers from Kailey Woolston and Shawnee Nordstrom on the ensuing Lone Peak possessions. In just over a minute, the once 9-point lead had increased to 17.
All told, the Knights finished the first half on a 11-1 run, dramatically diminishing what was an objectively solid half from the Silverwolves.
When asked what she thought it would be like to coach or play against her team, Lone Peak coach Nancy Warner admitted she’d never considered that before, but was glad she didn’t have to.
“I’m glad I don’t have to (coach against us),” Warner said with a near tone of relief.
“That certainly doesn’t mean that they’re perfect, but what separates them is their leadership, their competitiveness and the fact that every single player is able to do different things … You would definitely have to have a solid game plan and make sure you take away as much as you can.”
Possessing a plethora of scorers and talented players, taking things away from the Knights is much easier said than done.
Woolston, the highly touted BYU signee, finished with a game-high 25 points (23 of which came in the first half) and nine rebounds on 66% shooting. Nordstrom finished with 13 points and Naia Tanuvasa recorded 10 points.
Ika finished just short of double-digit scoring (9 points), but shot 100% from the field and dished out a game-high five assists.
While their shooting splits cooled down in the second half, the Knights still finished at 52% from the field, 43% from three and 86% from the free throw line.
“They came out ready to show what they can do,” Warner said. “(Fremont) is a great opponent that’s well-coached and has great players, so they definitely kept us on our toes, but we were able to make the adjustments that we needed to, and I thought our girls took it to heart and did a good job.”
Lone Peak posted 67 points, just like they did against Fremont in the title game last year. Although the point output was the same for the Knights, Thursday’s matchup was certainly easier on the cardiac health of Lone Peak’s coaches and supporters.
Now through the semifinal round, the Knights moved one step closer to their goal of a 6A title defense. Safe to say they were feeling pretty excited about the prospects of another championship bout.
“It means a lot,” Ika said through a smile. “Championship game’s are so exciting and they’re everything we dream of.”
In a season that’s been full of impressive results, the Knights will look to deliver again on Saturday.
“I’m proud of them for getting here and now we’ve got just one more,” Warner said. “Our focus is on that one more.”