By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography) & Kurt Johnson
TAYLORSVILLE – The top 4A girls basketball teams in the state have been busy inside Bruin Arena at Salt Lake Community College two days this week and as we head into Friday’s action, the field has been whittled from 16 teams down to four semifinalists.
Along the way, between close games and some not so close, stories have been written. Here are some of our top takeaways from Day 1 and 2 of the 2015 Class 4A girls basketball state championships.
1) Lindsey Jensen – Sky View has extended its record to 23-0 with its two state tournament victories, which included a 10-point first-round win over two-time defending champion Springville. It’s not the same Springville group that won those championships, but the Red Devils had won four of the last five, and were in the title game that fifth year, so knocking them out is still a significant accomplishment.
More impressive than the Bobcats winning that game and then blowing Murray out in Thursday’s quarterfinal has been the impressive individual performance of 5-foot-11 senior Lindsey Jensen. After dropping 32 points, five rebounds and an amazing seven steals on Springville, she scored 25, with eight rebounds against Murray. And she sat out part of third quarter and all of the fourth once the game was completely out of reach.
Jensen has been the best player in the tournament as a continuation of a season in which she has been one of the state’s elite performers.
2) Liz Eaton – Maple Mountain’s Liz Eaton had a nice game, with 23 points in the Golden Eagle’s first-round win over Bonneville, but it was in the team’s second game that she emerged as the kind of player who can elevate her game in the biggest moments.
Matched up against unbeaten Bountiful and its 6-3 post player Kennedy Redding, the 5-9 junior delivered her best performance. On a Maple Mountain team that lacks a true post presence to deal with a player like Redding, she not only scored 29 points, but ripped down 14 boards.
It wasn’t all about the stats Eaton delivered, it was more about the way she did it, with a relentless effort while playing the entire 36 minutes of a game the Golden Eagles won in overtime 68-64.
3) Bountiful falls – In a related item, Bountiful did not expect to be at home for the final two days of this tournament, but on this particular day, the Braves ran into a Maple Mountain team that was playing inspired basketball.
The game went back and forth, and when Redding stepped up big in the fourth period, the Golden Eagles answered. The Bountiful center blocked three shots in the final stanza, most notably an Eaton attempt at the rim when the Braves had a one-point lead with 12 seconds left.
Redding turned aside the attempt and then grabbed the ball, which send her to the other end for a pair of free throws that put Bountiful up three points that late in the contest. After Eaton was off target on a 3-point attempt inside of five seconds to go, Maple Mountain managed to force a tie-up on the rebound, and got one more chance on the alternate possession.
The Golden Eagles struggled to get the ball in bounds, but after a timeout, Eaton threw the ball in to Elli Eastmond, who drained a game-tying three-ball that sent the game to the extra session. Eaton scored the first two buckets in overtime and then she and Elzi Nielsen converted enough free throws down the stretch to hold off a team that was favored to at least reach the tournament finale.
4) Mountain View is back – It is not necessarily easy to explain how Mountain View stays off the radar, yet somehow gets to the state semifinals. After the Bruins made it that deep into the tourney a year ago, you’d think we’d have learned, and maybe now we have.
Salem Hills had lost just twice before Thursday, and that came while playing in the highly competitive Region 8, but on Thursday, the Skyhawks ran into a highly efficient Mountain View team that just makes plays.
Led by Stephanie Keele’s 24 points and 17 more from Paulani Tarawa, the Bruins opened the second quarter on an 11-0 run, only to see Salem Hills respond with a 13-2 stretch of its own. It was in the fourth when the Skyhawks could not answer another Mountain View surge, and the Bruins are in the semifinals for the second straight year.
5) Skyline ousts Timpview again – For the second consecutive season, Timpview ran into Skyline in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, and both delivered similar results – a narrow victory for the Eagles. Both years, beating Timpview meant dealing with the competitive force of will that comes with twin sisters Lyndie and Lacy Haddock.
Skyline has its own set of twins, Hillary and Sara Weixler, both of whom played a big role in this victory, but it was the presence of Olivia Elliss for whom the Thunderbirds had no answer.
The first half was a stand-off, as both Haddock sisters picked up two fouls in the opening quarter and sat out the entire second period, while Elliss also picked up a pair of fouls. It seemed that Timpview’s survival in that second stanza (they trailed just 17-15 at the break) would be a good sign, but it turned out differently.
Lyndie and Lacy Haddock did their damage in the second half, but it was the T-Birds inability to contain Elliss in the early stages of the third quarter that spelled the difference in the eventual outcome. The 5-10 senior scored eight of her 15 points, taking her defender off the dribble over and over again in a critical stretch in that period as the Eagles took control of the game, pulling away to a nine-point advantage that was too much for Timpview to overcome.
The Thunderbirds did create an opportunity late in the fourth to change things, as first Lyndie and then Lacy, Haddock scored on back-to-back trips to pull their team within two points at 43-41 with 1:28 remaining. After Timpview created a turnover on the next Eagles’ possession, it squandered that chance with a turnover of its own.