Taylorsville • They could have quit. It would have been easy to hang their heads and hope the tides turned in their favor.
Instead, the Layton Lancers took matters into their own hands. They grabbed ahold of the moment and made it a Wednesday afternoon to never forget.
Down 14 at halftime against Alta in the 5A quarterfinals at Salt Lake Community College, the Lancers left nothing open to interpretation in their emotional 63-57 come-from-behind victory against the Hawks.
They defended viciously and didn't stop.
It was a demonstration of sheer effort that propelled Layton into the 5A semifinals.
"We don't always start until our backs are against the wall," Layton coach Van Price said, "and our backs were way against the wall."
Layton's press defense left the Hawks who dominated the second quarter while outscoring the Lancers 22-6 flummoxed in the final two periods. It forced 24 Alta turnovers, many of which came in the second half when the Lancers imposed their defensive will and never stopped pestering their opponents.
"It was tiring," said senior guard Ashley Price, who finished with 14 points, "but that's what helped us come back."
Thanks to its tenacious press defense and quality free-throw shooting, the Lancers clawed to within a one-point margin heading into the fourth quarter, trailing Alta 42-41.
That's where junior Maddi Smith took over. The Layton forward scored 11 of her team-high 17 points in the fourth, including a crucial 3-pointer early in the period to tie the game 44-44.
When asked what she learned about her team Wednesday, Smith smiled.
"We have a lot of heart," she said, "and we can give a lot of effort."
Smith credited junior Jaden Anderson for keeping her group in the game when Layton looked lost in the second quarter. The 6-foot-1 forward poured in 16 points off the bench. Van Price said the comeback win is one he won't soon forget because of the way his group responded to the finality of the situation it faced.
"This ranks up there with the best," he said.
The glow from Wednesday's win will shine for a while, but up next for the Lancers is a matchup with undefeated Bingham for a shot to play for a state championship Friday.
And Ashley Price already has a sunny outlook.
"I never doubt us," she said, "and I always think we can come back."