TAYLORSVILLE — Several of her teammates made sure to give Bingham's Ameleya Angilau pats on the back and words of encouragement before lining up what proved to be her final free-throw attempt of the game. The situation, and a a spot in the 6A state championship, was well within the junior point guard's control, much like it was throughout the fourth quarter of Friday's semifinal matchup versus defending champion Fremont.
Just as Angilau did throughout the final stretch, she came through when it mattered most, swishing through the attempt to give the Miners a 46-42 lead with just 7 seconds left on the clock. A final attempt by the Silver Wolves went wide with the Miners erupting in celebration right after the final buzzer.
"You've done this a million times. You've got this," Angilau said of what teammates were telling her just after missing the front-end. "Of course I was a bit nervous, but I know my routine and I know what I need to do to get it in."
Tight games often come down to point guard play, and the situation couldn't have been tighter throughout the fourth quarter of Friday's semifinal. Not until the 2:42 mark of the final period did either team score, although those points were provided by Angilau on a running floater in the lane to extend Bingham's lead to 40-37, and the lead was made bigger by the game flow.
"I think it was huge, just because we needed to get that last possession. I knew if we had it, then we'd win the game," Angilau said. "So I just saw an open lane and I decided to go for it."
For the rest of the quarter Angilau was the main focus, with the ball ending up in her hands time and again, while taking most of the fouls and subsequent free-throws in the game's final minute of play. Angilau wasn't perfect with those foul shots, going 4-6, although those four loomed large due to the suffocating defense provided by the Miners on the other end.
Indeed the Miners' overall defense is what won the game on Friday, more so than any factor, and perhaps particularly provided on 6A MVP Emma Calvert, who dominated tournament play last season. When informed Calvert was held to just two points scored in the fourth quarter, Bingham coach Charron Mason was a bit surprised, but also elated.
"I'm so proud of them," Mason said of the defensive effort against Calvert, while adding the key to shutting Calvert down was rebounding. "She's just such a presence on the inside that we just tried to limit her getting offensive rebounds. That was the biggest thing."
Calvert finished with 13 points on the game, doing most of that work in the first half, which saw Fremont edge ahead 24-23 at the break. The third quarter followed form, with two top teams unwilling to give an inch, although Bingham managed to sneak ahead 38-37 entering the fourth quarter.
As for that fourth quarter, it wasn't an easy watch for most fans, and certainly not for Mason from the bench.
"It was painful," Mason said of having to watch the fourth quarter unfold from the bench. "It was excruciating."1 comment on this story
All of that angst turned to jubilation right after the final buzzer sounded, ushering in a raucous Bingham celebration due to not only reaching the state championship game, but having accomplished as much against Fremont.
"We lost to them in the championship game (last year), so we really wanted to get this," Angilau said. "So we did this together as a team and that's what got us through it."