SALT LAKE CITY — Going through the difficult, weekly grind otherwise known as Region 4 boys basketball apparently worked well as proper preparation for this year’s 5A state tournament.
Pleasant Grove placed second behind top-ranked, defending 5A champ Lone Peak during the regular-season race. And with Thursday’s impressive 78-55 victory over Region 2 champion Alta, the Vikings find themselves in Friday night’s 5A semifinals.
And who will they face? Well, none other than yet another Region 4 team, American Fork, which punched its own semifinal ticket with a lopsided 23-point victory of its own, 50-27, over Brighton in another quarterfinal clash Thursday at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Center.
In Thursday’s late game, Lone Peak secured its own semifinal berth giving Region 4 three of the final four teams remaining in this year’s 5A tournament.
Pleasant Grove head coach Randy McAllister said the arduous task of going through that challenging Region 4 grind certainly helped get his team ready for this week’s state playoffs.
“Our lower teams are very competitive, and it totally prepares you (for the state tournament),” he said. “There really wasn’t a night off.
“Just because Lehi came in seventh doesn’t mean you went into Lehi and had a night off. We had to work to beat Lehi, we had to work to beat Westlake, we had to work to beat everybody.
“So I think that totally builds your preparation for the postseason having to do that,” McAllister said. “Night in and night out, you’ve got to be ready to play or you’re going to lose. So I think that really is a benefit to have a tough, tough region.”
Pleasant Grove (22-3) has won 10 of its last 11 games, with the Vikings’ lone loss over that span coming in a 63-56 defeat on Feb. 25 against American Fork — the same team they’ll face in tonight’s tourney semifinals.
“There’s some good teams left in this tournament, and we could lose to any one of the teams left in this tournament,” McAllister said. “We’ll go out and compete and play the best we can and see what happens.
“We’re very excited about that,” he said of reaching Friday’s semifinals. “The kids are excited, but they had a goal to go two games further than this. We’re gonna go in there (the postgame locker room) and pat ‘em on the back gently, tell ‘em to go home and go to bed, and tell ‘em to get ready for another one tomorrow.”
And when “tomorrow” comes on Friday, that all-Region 4 semifinal showdown between Pleasant Grove and American Fork might very well be one dandy of a duel.