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Taylorsville • From the first day of practice, coaches preach the virtues of never giving up. Yet, when a team starts a game down 15-0 as Springville did Friday in the semifinals of the Class 4A basketball tournament, that resolve can be sorely tested.
But the Red Devils kept fighting back and fighting back. And, when Ali Monson banked a layup high off the backboard with 35.6 seconds left to give Springville it's first lead, those lessons were well learned.
The Red Devils needed more than a few breaks in the final minutes to come away with an improbable 50-49 victory over Alta. But that seems to be the nature of this team.
"These girls just don't want to lose," said emotional Springville coach Camie Oakey. "It's not in them. ... Losing is not in their vocabulary."
But she admitted that the first quarter was an exercise in frustration.
"My thoughts?" said Oakey. "I was pissed off. I was swearing up a storm on the sidelines. I was furious."
She was mad because Springville was not executing its fast break. There were miscommunications on defense. And not much was going right. But she said the girls got together to change things at halftime.
"Their attitude changed," said Oakey. Their mindset changed. They started to play like they could win."
But it was a long haul back against a very good Alta team. It would be easy for the Red Devils to have given up more than a few times. They fell behind by six points with 2:31 to play against the Hawks, a team known for good ball handling.
But those two free throws by Mariah Martin would be Alta's final points. Savannah Sumsion, who led Springville with 20 points and 11 rebounds, stole the ball and scored with 1:39 to play.
As Alta missed the front end of two one-and-one situations, Red Devil Olivia Park got one free throw. Then, on an inbounds play, Monson gave Springville it's only lead of the night and the only one it would need.
"It was a base play called for Savannah," said Oakey. "It was not called for Ali. She said as she walked back that she didn't think it was going in. She said she thought it was going over the basket."
Monson said the play was one run in practice and ended in a simple layup.
"It was a little bit high," she said. "When it went in, I was a little relieved."
Alta had one last chance to tie or win the game with 1.1 seconds left. But Mariah Martin missed both free throws.
Alta coach Elizabeth Gustafson said that games such as this one are not lost in the final second, but involve things that happen earlier in the game.
"I was proud of our effort, proud of our intensity," she said. "That was a complement to the work we put in the last four months."
Sumsion said Springville struggled early. She knew she did personally.
"The only thing you can control is your effort," she said. "Once we did that, the game just turned around. The coaches were just trying to push me to get better and push through it."
Push through Springville did. And, as a result, the Red Devils will meet Bountiful for the 4A title Saturday at 11 a.m. at Salt Lake Community College.
Twitter @tribtomwharton Storylines
• Ali Monson hits a layup with 35.6 seconds left to give Springville its first lead. The Red Devils trailed 15-0 early in the game.
• Savannah Sumsion scores 20 points and hauls down 11 rebounds to lead the Red Devils.
• Tatiana Thompson, Kemery Martin and Kacey Martin score in double figures for Alta.