Heroics from Hirschi, Homer help Hurricane into 4A title game

The Hurricane Tigers celebrate their victory over Lehi, Hurricane vs. Lehi, Girls Basketball, Orem, Utah, Mar. 2, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

OREM – A day after knocking off No. 1-ranked Mountain View, the Hurricane Tigers rallied from six points down with just over two minutes left to defeat Lehi 43-42 in the 4A state semifinals Friday afternoon at the UCCU Center.

Hailey Homer made 1 of 2 free throws with 2.2 seconds on the clock and a half-court heave by the Pioneers caromed off the rim as time expired, sparking a celebration by the Tigers on the Utah Valley University court.

“Unbelievable, that comeback was phenomenal,” Hurricane coach Franci Homer said. “I ask those girls every time to give everything they have, you have nothing to lose, and you go work and they did. And I asked them to go to our press and to just get touches and they did. So exciting!”

Hurricane’s Hailey Homer (21) shoots the game-winning free throw, Hurricane vs. Lehi, Girls Basketball, Orem, Utah, Mar. 2, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Hailey Homer rebounded a miss by teammate Jayden Langford and was bumped as she gathered to try for the put back. She missed the first free throw and a timeout was taken by Lehi to set up the last couple of seconds.

“I was just thinking ‘I only have to make one foul shot and we are up,'” Hailey Homer said. “I was just envisioning myself making it and I said, ‘You know, I missed the first one and I only need to make one and we’ll be up by one.’ So after the timeout, I could see it going in. I just said, ‘This is going in.'”

She then swished the second charity shot.

Lehi quickly got the ball inbounds to Macie Warren, who took three dribbles and then threw a prayer up from half court. The long bomb was close, but it hit the right side of the rim and bounced harmlessly away.

Hurricane’s Madi Hirschi (33), Hurricane vs. Lehi, Girls Basketball, Orem, Utah, Mar. 2, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“Jayden Langford on my team tells us it’s going to be bit by bit, and that really lined that up for me,” Madi Hirschi said. “It’s going to be one steal, one basket, one steal, one basket. We are going to stop them, we are going to score. It was so much fun. I mean, you eat, sleep, and play basketball. Who doesn’t want that?!”

The game-winner by Homer wouldn’t have been possible without Hirschi’s heroics the last 2:11 of the game. She buried a 3-pointer from the corner at the 2:11 mark to bring Hurricane within 39-36. A moment later, after a Tigers miss, she stole the ball from Lehi at midcourt and laid in the uncontested bucket to make it 39-38 with 51 seconds on the clock.

The Tigers then fouled intentionally and Lehi missed the front end of a one-and-one, leaving the score at 39-38 and prompting a timeout. Out of the break, Hirschi took the inbounds pass under her own basket and dribbled coast-to-coast to give Hurricane its first lead since the first quarter with 36.9 seconds to play.

“Halftime was hard, but we came back in there and talked about what we needed to do,” Hirschi said. “We lined it up and believed we could do it.”

A few seconds later, Lehi’s Apelila Galeai missed a shot inside. Kylee Stevens was fouled on the rebound and made both free throws with 25.9 seconds to go to make it 42-39.

But Lehi wasn’t done yet. Galeai then dribbled the ball upcourt and paused 30 feet from the basket, then launched a long (perhaps 30 feet) 3-pointer. It was perfect and tied the game at 42-42 with 17 seconds left on the clock.

“I was like ‘Ahhh!,” Coach Homer said. “That was beautiful. That shot was amazing and I feel like we got a lucky break on the rebound foul. But I would put Hailey on the line any day.”

The Tigers then hustled the ball upcourt and Langford tried a twisting shot in heavy traffic. It was off the mark, but Hailey Homer got the board and was pushed before she could get a potential winning shot away. The clock read 0:02.2.

Hurricane’s Madi Hirschi (33), Hurricane vs. Lehi, Girls Basketball, Orem, Utah, Mar. 2, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“Our team is consistent and we don’t just fall to other teams,” Hailey Homer said. “We keep battling and we never give up, so that’s what our coach told us to do. Keep scoring and building up our score. It’s been a little bit stressful, and kind of exciting, but I don’t know, it’s just fun to play and stressful leading up to playing and its stressful while your playing.”

Hurricane, which finished second in Region 9 during the regular season, trailed most of the game after falling behind late in the first quarter. The Pioneers used the shooting of Galeai and the inside strength of Sara Christopherson to go up 20-14 at halftime and build the lead to 36-29 with 4:47 left in the game.

Alexa Christensen and Langford had baskets to help keep the Tigers within striking distance. Samantha Lewis hit two free throws for Lehi with 2:32 to play to make it 39-33, setting up the final moments for Hirschi and Homer.

“At 5:50, I took a timeout and I said guys we’re just down seven – seven is nothing,” Coach Homer said. “We just need some stops … and they did it. This has been awesome. What a state tournament. You never know what you’re going to get.”

The Tigers did not shoot the ball well, making just 13 of 46 shots in the game (28.3 percent), with 4 of 16 from 3. But Hurricane held its own on the boards against the bigger Pioneers. Lehi held a slight 34-33 rebounding advantage. The Tigers won the turnover battle 17-10.

Hirschi was the only Hurricane player in double figures with 15 points. Christensen had eight. Langford had six points, five assists and four steals.

The Tigers advance to the 4A championship game and will play Salem Hills at 11 a.m. Saturday at the UCCU Center.

Salem Hills 60, Logan 40

Lauren Gustin continues her amazing tear through the 4A state tournament by scoring 35 points and grabbing 14 rebounds for the Skyhawks, who won their 13th straight game and their 23rd of the year (with just one loss).

Gustin, who averaged 29 points a game during the regular season, has upped the ante in the playoffs, scoring 32 per contest in three playoff wins for Salem Hills.

Dixie Lainhart added 12 points and four assists for Salem Hills, which allowed just 11 points in the first half to the Grizzlies. The Skyhawks’ only loss this season came to region rival Mountain View, which was eliminated by Hurricane on Thursday.

Salem Hills plays Hurricane in the 4A championship game Saturday at the UCCU Center with tipoff scheduled for 11 a.m.

4A first round results
Upper bracket
Spanish Fork 72, Stansbury 53
Logan 57, Pine View 49
Cedar 56, Bear River 34
Salem Hills 62, Tooele 25

Lower bracket
Hurricane 62, Green Canyon 53
Mt. View 57, Juan Diego 29
Lehi 44, Bonneville 38
Desert Hills 50, Ridgeline 49

4A quarterfinal results (@ UCCU Center, Utah Valley University)
Upper bracket
Logan 62, Spanish Fork 45
Salem Hills 58, Cedar 48

Lower bracket
Hurricane 53, Mt. View 44
Lehi 45, Desert Hills 41

4A semifinal results (@ UCCU Center, Utah Valley University)
Salem Hills 60, Logan 40
Hurricane 43, Lehi 42

4A championship (@ UCCU Center, Utah Valley University)
Hurricane (15-10) vs. Salem Hills (23-1), Saturday, 11 a.m.

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

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