By Arianna Faamausili
Playing in a new region this year, it was tough for the Taylorsville High girls basketball team. They learned how to face new challenges each day, in practice and games, with league games against teams like Bingham and Copper Hills.
When facing unbeaten Copper Hills in a midseason contest when the Grizzlies were missing one of their good players, Ashley Larson, because of an injury, the Warriors turned in one of their most impressive performances.
“I noticed a few of us were very nervous for this game, myself as well, but nothing was going to stop us from doing our best,” said Hillary Tago.
And nothing did stop Taylorsville from coming out to battle the Copper Hills girls basketball team on the Warriors’ home court that night. It was one of the games that showcased the leadership of senior Kaitlin Toluono.
Toluono has worked her way up to become a great ball player for Taylorsville. She is classified as a small forward, but can actually play any position she is asked to. Over the years that Kaitlin has played, she has always made time to practice during the offseason as well.
“My parents have definitely been a big influence teaching me to work for what I want,” Toluono said. “My dad has woken me up to countless early morning workouts that have definitely helped me improve. My mom has been the person to pick me up when I’m feeling down. My team has also pushed me in practice every day to become better by giving their all. The credit can be given to so many people, but those are a select few.”
Toluono shares that though they lost that night to Copper Hills, it was her favorite memory throughout the whole season. They really came together and had a blast all at the same time. Something had really clicked that day for the Warriors.
Toluono is an inspiring athlete to watch. Obviously, her history as being a cancer survivor and dealing with everything she’s had to go through at such a young age is extremely motivating. It’s no wonder why she plays and fights so hard; she is a survivor by nature.
“Kaitlin contributes to our team in several ways,” head coach Jodi Lee said. “She leads our team in several statistical categories such as points, rebounds and steals per game. Kaitlin also contributes just with her presence alone. She is a natural competitor and she helps drive others around her toward that competitive spirit. Her teammates are fueled by her energy and look to her as a leader.”
Though it was a tragic last-second loss against Copper Hills Feb. 11, the team did an excellent job. Its defense was phenomenal and the crowd was very enthusiastic. The Warriors were in the lead, but just at the last second, Copper Hills had taken the win.
“I remember that moment very dramatically,” Taylorsville student Wade Utai said. “Copper Hills got really lucky on that last shot. I was devastated for the girls, but they had such good hearts at the end and cheered loud and proud for themselves. I loved it.”
The team’s effort did not go unnoticed. They were motivated in part by playing for Cami Toeun, who missed most of the season after being injured in a preseason game against Layton Christian. “I wrote Cami’s name on my wrist that game to remind me that when I get tired on the court, I can look down at that name and advise myself to keep going, that I can do it,” Toluono’s sister Morgan said. “I can do this for Cami.”
“I wish she was playing,” Kaitlin said. “Her constant composure helped us as a whole which I miss.”
Toluono’s love for the game has greatly increased over the years she has been playing.
“I like playing basketball because of the friendships and memories that are made,” she said. “I also like how physical it is.”
Toluono’s teammates appreciate the spirit that she has on and off the court.
Toluono has the ability and strength to elevate those around her.
“Kaitlin has so many wonderful aspects to her,” Coach Lee said. “She has an awesome personality and often keeps all of us laughing with her goofy sense of humor. She truly is fun to be around. As a basketball player I think her greatest aspects or strengths would be her ability to drive to the basket and her ability to rebound and get put-backs.
“The first thing I ever noticed about Kaitlin when I watched her play was how well she reads the ball off the rim. She is not super tall so her ability to do that as well as her sheer passion to go get the ball helps her rebound better than so many others who are taller than she is. I think those are some of her greatest basketball strengths.”
Tuesday, Feb. 23 saw the Warriors welcomed to the Salt Lake Community College court to play against the Layton Lancers in a state tournament game. It was a great place to end the season, and though it was a tough loss for them, Toluono still managed to lead her team with 16 points in the end.
“I think our team has always been prepared to play, it’s just our confidence we have to keep up,” Toluono said heading into that game.
Coach Lee appreciates the efforts that her team has made this year and for even making it to state without a dear teammate who had to sit out practically the whole season. As for the future, Toluono plans to, of course, further her education after graduation and possibly serve a mission.
Taylorsville High student Arianna Faamausili wrote this story as part of the Preps Utah student journalism program, powered by Bank of American Fork, which will award two of our published student journalists college scholarships at the end of the school year.