High school boys basketball: Lehi never stopped believing, capped Quincy Lewis’ first year as head coach with unlikely 5A title
In Lehi’s semifinal win Friday night, coach Quincy Lewis said his team took multiple haymakers from Olympus but shrugged them off each time to advance.
In Saturday’s championship against Farmington, the haymakers were bigger and stronger and even knocked the Pioneers to the figurative mat a couple times. Not a big deal, though, Lewis’ players hopped right back up just like they’ve been doing all season.
That resiliency helped Lehi persevere in the second half amid a Farmington 15-3 run, and down the stretch it made the necessary plays to hold on for the 61-57 victory for its first state championship since 1998.
Ironically enough, Lehi accomplished exactly what Lewis told senior Noa Gonsalves the team would do after he took the job back in May.
“As soon as he came in he called me up and said we’re winning the state championship, I thought he was crazy at first but then as we went along, I started believing,” said Gonsalves, who scored 19 points and recorded 13 rebounds in a clutch performance on the biggest stage.
Gonsalves scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, including six straight free throws in the final 32 seconds to hold of Farmington’s comeback attempt.
His points early in the quarter were just as massive to swing momentum back his team’s way. Farmington closed the third quarter with three straight 3-pointers to grab a 40-37 lead, and then early in the fourth Caleb Mordue buried a corner 3 to stretch the lead to 43-39.
Lehi scored on five straight possessions after falling behind, including a clutch 3-point play from Gonsalves that leveled the score 43-43.
Lewis said the tense fourth quarter didn’t faze his players.
“We have been in some really tough games. We are in a really tough region,” said Lewis, whose team went 6-6 in the difficult Region 7 and tied for third with Mountain View and Alta. “They’ve been through that before.”
Lehi struggled from 3-point range in the title game, but Blake Hill made his only trey in five attempts in the fourth quarter, a shot that gave Lehi the lead for good at 46-45 at the 4:59 mark
“He has a lot of confidence in himself, and he just fits in. He doesn’t force it. The thing about Peter is Peter can make hard plays. You’ve got to have guys that can make the hard play and he can do that,” said Lewis.
When Lewis took over the Lehi program from coach Sean Yeager, who moved into an administrative role at the school, after watching the film of Lehi’s games more closely he could see the obvious talent on the roster, particularly Gonsalves and Amakasu.
“I watched them from last year and I knew we had some good players, we had a lot of work to do. The thing I told them is, ‘Hey, we might not be the best July 1 or even Sept. 1, but we want to be the best by March 1. We weren’t the best team Feb. 1, but we are now,” said Lewis.
Lehi closed the regular season with a 2-2 record, including a 21-point loss at top seed Timpview back on Feb. 9. It was a type of loss that could’ve easily been the wake-up call for Lehi that it just wasn’t good enough this year, and Lewis wasn’t a magician after all.
Lehi’s players just hopped right back up instead.
“Timpview got us pretty good and we got together as a team after that one and said, ‘Listen, we can still do this, but we’ve got believe and we’ve got to stay together,’ and we started playing better. We got Tyson (Hawkins) healthy, and that was a big part because Tyson is a big piece to the whole puzzle,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins score 10 points in Lehi’s semifinal win over Olympus and then nine more against Farmington.
Another key on Saturday was giving Farmington’s superior size a limited amount of second-chance opportunities, which Lehi did, only allowing five offensive rebounds.
Lewis also praised the interior defense of Preston Varner, Tyler Trane and Grayson Brousseau for making life in the paint difficult for Farmington big man Truman Hendry. He still had a solid performance with 12 points and seven rebounds, but wasn’t the dominant interior presence Lehi feared he could be.
With the victory, Lewis tied the coaching state record for most career state championships with eight. The man he leveled himself with in the record books, Provo legend Craig Drury, sent him a text after Friday’s semifinal win.
“He said, ‘Great job, good luck tomorrow, go get it.’ That means a lot, cause it’s his deal a little bit. It means a lot because of how good of coaches there are in the state,” said Lewis.
At 49, Lewis may have many more years of coaching ahead of him if he wants and could push the record out to an unattainable level for his future peers.
Breaking records was never his motivation during seven state championships at Lone Peak, and it isn’t his motivation at Lehi either.
“I just like being in the gym with the guys every day,” said Lewis.
Deseret News 5A All-Tournament Team
MVP — Peter Amakasu, Lehi
Noah Gonsalves, Lehi
Collin Chandler, Farmington
Caleb Mordue, Farmington
Jack Wistrcill, Olympus
Jake Wahlin, Timpview