Team of personalities: Skyline captures first state title since 2008
Mar 27, 2017 12:22PM
By Travis Barton
Skyline High School girls basketball team holds the 4A state championship trophy at Salt Lake Community College after defeating Judge Memorial in overtime 60-57. It was the Eagles’ third championship appearance in four years. (jorgiabarryphoto)
For the third time in four years, the Skyline Eagles girls basketball team returned to the 4A state championship game. But this time, they came away victorious, beating region foe Judge Memorial 60-57 in overtime.
“It’s just really satisfying,” said junior Barrett Jessop, who nailed five 3-pointers in the final. “Because we talk about it all season long and where we want to be and to get there and achieve what we wanted to was great.”
Despite the celebrations continuing long after the buzzer sounded, players still weren’t sure if it was a dream or not.
“The dream kind of still feels unreal, like it didn’t happen,” said junior Madison Grange. Her fellow captain, senior Hannah Anderl, added it was hard to believe.
“Looking back on it and looking at pictures I’m like ‘was that really us?’ It just kind of feels like it all didn’t happen, but it’s just awesome to have finally done it,” Anderl said.
Head coach Lynette Schroeder said she was proud of her players and the hard work they put in.
“(It’s) something that we’ve been so close to getting before and as a coach, it’s kind of just relief,” she said. In her five years as the Eagles head coach, Schroeder’s been to three championship games.
“I was so happy for her cause she’s such an unbelievable coach … that she could finally do it and we could give it to her,” Anderl said.
Having come close in 2014 — losing to Springville — and again in 2015 — losing to Sky View — Schroeder said the third time proved to be charmed. Anderl experienced both of those losses as well, but gained vital experience in the process.
“Getting there two years before, you see what it takes to get there and just not being able to quite reach it is so disappointing,” the two-year captain said. “We wanted to get back there again and when we did, we thought ‘we can’t lose this and have that same feeling we had before.’”
Teamwork + defense = 2017 4A state champions
For a team who finished second in 4A scoring 62 points a game, coaches and players identified teamwork and defense as the formula to its state championship run.
Schroeder said she had five players who could score double digits any night (Anderl, Grange and junior Cameron Mooney all averaged double figures), but the biggest factor to a state championship was playing as a team.
“We had so much individual talent and if it didn’t come together then we wouldn’t be in this situation. I think that they really bought into the aspect that we need to play as a team to win,” Schroeder said.
This group only lost three seniors from last year’s team, allowing for a building nucleus to remain intact.
“By spending time together, you’re not going to love each other at every minute — it takes a while to get used to each other — but once you do, you’re like family pretty much, you become best friends off the court, which is great,” Anderl said.
Team chemistry flourished off the court with bonding experiences like a team sleepover, translating onto the court. It even helped for efficient communication on defense.
“Defense is what got us to state in my eyes and what kept us going in the state tournament,” Jessop said.
Coaching an offensive-minded team can be scary, Schroeder said, because teams will have poor shooting nights, “whereas a team that’s defensively minded and can make stops, if you can’t score, the other team’s still not scoring so it’s still a game.”
Grange said it’s why they finished the season 23-4.
“We only lost four times and teamwork and defense are the reasons why,” Grange said.
Special season from the start
While Schroeder begins each season believing it will be special, for this year’s version, she knew from the first game.
Sky View had beaten the Eagles in their previous three outings, including the 2015 state title game. But this season was different. In the season’s opening game, Skyline dominated Sky View from start to finish to win 70-56.
“We shared the ball, we played defense and I thought, ‘Wow, we have something special here,’” Schroeder said.
Grange, who finished the game with 23 points, six rebounds and four steals, said it was a momentum builder that let them know what they were capable of.
“This is our year to go through and succeed as best we can and that’s what we did. I’m proud of our girls,” Grange said.
Personality puzzle pieces
Every roster of every team carries a different dynamic of characters. The Eagles roster had the proper personality pieces to complete the championship puzzle.
“They meshed so well together,” Schroeder said.
Whether it was senior captain Sarah Trela-Hoskins and her permanent smile (“Everyone rides off of her positivity,” Anderl said), Mooney saying what the team needed to hear — be it a joke or rebuke — Jessop’s steadiness at point guard, Grange’s swagger or Anderl’s calm as a leader, the Eagles had all the pieces they needed.
“It’s just part of my personality; I guess I’ve never been one to freak out or be really excited about stuff,” Anderl said of her ability to remain level-headed.
That plays into her basketball IQ as well. Anderl is known for her vision and court savvy, whether it’s in steals, blocks or assists. She grew up watching basketball with her dad.
“I’ve just been around basketball my whole life so I got my smarts from that I guess,” she said.
Grange said her self-assurance comes from putting in the time.
“If you know you’ve worked on it long enough that you’re able to do it in a game then I think that’s going to build your confidence immensely,” she said.
An important component to the Eagles’ success was their poise down the stretch.
Skyline drained 24 free throws in the fourth quarter of their quarterfinal victory over Alta, overcame a 10-point deficit to defeat Timpview and had to withstand a furious rally from Judge Memorial to prevail in the final.
Jessop said it’s because of the “trust and belief they have in each other.”
It was a focus of Schroeder’s all season. “I definitely think that their poise is a reflection of our coaching staff as well. We try to be as in control of our emotions as possible. Especially when it gets down to the (playoff) games,” she said.
The fifth-year head coach practices scenarios all season in what’s called “mini state tournaments” where they’re down three with 10 seconds left or up two.
“When it finally came time for the state tournament this year we just kind of knew how to handle ourselves in games and pressure situations,” Anderl said.
With the state tournament complete and victory theirs, Grange said it’s a year she’ll never forget.
“One of the biggest things I’ll remember is holding up the trophy and cutting down the net with some of my best friends,” she said.