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OGDEN — Trey Stewart and Tanner Cuff scored 18 apiece, and American Fork ended its decades-long championship drought with a 66-57 win over Pleasant Grove to claime the 6A state championship Saturday.
“I told them history matters,” head coach Ryan Cuff said after his team’s first state title since 1979. “Gonna enjoy this one. I’m just so proud of them.”
The win was American Fork’s first over Pleasant Grove this season, which had defeated the Cavemen twice entering Saturday.
“In both of those games, we wanted our guys to know that we were right there, we had our chances,” Cuff said. “We knew we were gonna execute good and we just had to make extra stops defensively. We knew we could score. We just had to buckle down and get the job done on the defensive end.”
Suffice it to say, the Cavemen got the job done on Saturday.
For the game, the Cavemen held the Vikings to just 44 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent from deep, while limiting Utah signee Matt Van Komen — who was showered with “overrated” chants from the American Fork student section throughout the game — to just 6 points and 10 rebounds.
Van Komen had finished with 10 and 16 points, respectively, in the prior two games against American Fork.
“These first two games we played him, we knew when he gets the ball down low, it’s hard to stop him,” said Isaac Johnson, who finished with 10 points, including one three-pointer, and also stretched Van Komen to the perimeter and forced him to defend in space. “He’s 7-foot-4 and he has an even longer wingspan … so it’s just don’t let him get the ball and that’s what I had to do.”
The Viking offense short-circuited with Johnson fronting Van Komen in the post. In their half-court defense, the Cavemen made it a point of emphasis to deny entry passes to Pleasant Grove’s 7-foot-4 string bean, who, when he did touch the ball, was smothered by double-teams. The result was six turnovers for the future Ute big man.
“Isaac did a great job of working hard and getting in front of him and having that backside help,” Stewart said.
Casey Brown and Kael Mikkelson led all scorers with 19 apiece, combining to shoot 4-of-7 from deep as the only Viking players in double-figures.
“Great shooters, they’ve done an excellent job,” Cuff said. “We didn’t want them to get any room to get off shots.”
With Van Komen guarding the rim, American Fork was forced to fire outside shots early on and struggled to find offensive purchase, shooting just 1-of-4 from deep and 6-of-15 overall in the first quarter.
But after trailing 18-16, the Cavemen warmed in the second quarter. Stewart, Franson and Johnson all splashed threes as part of a 50 percent shooting effort — overall and from deep — and the Cavemen led 31-27 at halftime.
The momentum carried into the third quarter for the Cavemen.
Coming out of halftime, Stewart banged down a three, Franson attacked in transition, and by the time Johnson finished over Van Komen, the Cavemen led 38-29.
The Vikings would pull within two points, 38-36, moments later, but American Fork closed the quarter on a 13-5 run and carried a 51-41 lead into the final frame. American Fork led by at least 4 points the rest of the way.
“Forty years. We’re rewriting history,” Stewart said. Follow Dillon on Twitter @dillondanderson.