Grizzlies recapture magic this season
Feb 27, 2017 12:44PM ● Published by Greg James
Copper Hills sophomore Breaunna Gillen has averaged nine points a game this season. (Dave Sanderson/dsandersonpics.com)
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The Copper Hills Grizzlies girls basketball team could not be expected to top last season’s undefeated regular season and trip to the state semifinals. The 5A most valuable player graduated, and they lost several key players. It would be challenging to make it to the top again.
“I felt like there would be some growing pains early on,” Grizzlies head coach Ben Morley said. “We lost quite a few great players to graduation. We are a younger team and not as experienced in the big moments. I have really felt we could contend for a region title again.”
A dead heat for first place in Region 3 has developed between the Grizzlies and Bingham. Despite an early season 43-30 victory over the Miners, the region title was still up for grabs when they faced the Miners on their home court Jan. 31.
The Grizzlies committed 17 turnovers, above their season average of 10, and lost 49-47. Seniors Kate Sisler and Kiarra Gasu scored 11 and 13 points, respectively, but they came out on the short end. It was an intense, back-and-forth game. Morley said he didn’t think it came down to his team not wanting to win.
“This game came down to turnovers,” he said. “We had four straight turnovers. The extra possessions that we did not get to take shots hurt us. That just hurt us. It is disappointing to lose a close one, but I am proud of this team and the way we have come together.”
As a team, not one name jumps out on the game stats sheets; combined, the players make the impact and find ways to win. Morley said they will not dwell on the past; they will just find ways to get better.
“I feel like our defense is really good,” he said. “We stress winning on defense. We also have some girls that can shoot the three-pointer very well. We embrace that shot and make them defend every inch of the court. When we do that, we are tough to beat.”
Sisler and junior Amberly Lazenby lead the team in three-point field goals. The team is shooting 37 percent from behind the arc.
“When we move the ball, it makes us hard to guard,” Morley said. “We have a good mixture of youth and older players.”
Taela Laufiso, Sisler and Gasu are the team captains. Morley said finding the right combination around them is the key. He said the sophomores and freshman in the varsity rotation have been playing important minutes.
“As coaches, we don’t care what grade the girl is in or if they played last year,” Morley said. “I think you have to prove yourself every year. I think the players know that. It is a cultural thing we try to teach that every day you need to earn it.”
Sisler was named to the Deseret News Academic All-State team. The award recognizes seniors who have excelled in the classroom as well as in athletic competition. She leads the team in scoring, averaging just over 10 points per game.
The 5A girls state tournament is scheduled to begin Feb. 20 at Salt Lake Community College (after press deadline).