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The City Journals

Concussions, illness and a double overtime heartbreaker keep MHS girls out of postseason

Mar 07, 2018 02:08PM ● By Carl Fauver

Four Murray girls’ basketball seniors—Ivy Stout, Tasia Stevens, Sophie Richmond and Lydia Golder (L-R)—received lots of going away gifts at their senior night, before going out with their biggest win of the season. (Holly Gillette)

A promising 5-2 start to the Murray girls’ basketball season gave way to a 3-11 finish (3-7 in Region 6 play) as the Spartans missed out on post season play for the second straight year.

Fourth year Murray head coach Holly Gillette said her girls were disappointed, and attributes part of their downfall to illness and two head injuries.

The Murray girls remained alive for postseason play until their final game of the year. A win at West High School would have forced a “play-in” game, for the fourth and final state tournament slot for Region 6.

But with one of their key players missing her second straight game—after suffering a concussion a week earlier—the Panthers ended the Spartans’ season with a 71-66 double overtime victory.

“A week before (the double OT loss, 6-foot junior center) Sarah Dudley was hit in the head with a basketball and suffered a concussion,” Gillette said. “That forced her to miss our final two games.”

Earlier in the season, Murray’s other center—6-foot-2 starter Isis Beh—was also concussed in a game. She was out for three games.

“I tripped and fell in a game and landed hard on my chin,” Beh said. “I was able to finish that game. But when the trainer checked me over afterward he said I couldn’t play again until he cleared me.”

In addition to missing their two tallest players for a total of five games due to head injuries, Beh said several other teammates missed games “here and there” throughout the season, due to sickness.

“Every team goes through things like that, so we aren’t trying to make excuses,” Gillette added. “But in such a close race for the playoffs it was harder (with the missing girls out).”

The Murray girls basketball team missed the 5A state tournament for the second straight year, as East, Skyline, Highland and West claimed the four post season seeds from Region 6. The Spartans did finish the season ahead of Olympus, which went winless in region. It was the same position (fifth) they finished in region a year ago, although the schools in their region have changed significantly.

 “Three years ago—in my first year as head coach—we placed third in region, and won a state tournament game,” Gillette said. “But two years ago we slipped to fourth in region and lost our state tournament game. Then last year, placing fifth in region, we missed the tournament.”

Just four days before the season ending loss at West, the Murray girls closed out their home schedule with their biggest win of the year, 62-27 over Olympus. Since it was the final home game of the season, the team also honored their four oldest players with “Senior Night.”

Lydia Golder, Sophie Richmond, Tasia Stevens and Ivy Stout all received blankets, commemorative photographs and other mementos.  They also each scored in that final home rout.   

Golder—a 5-foot-8 guard—hopes to play competitively again next season, at a different school.   

“I tried to improve my skills, because I want to play college basketball. But my individual goals weren’t nearly as important as helping the team.”

Meantime, Gillette said senior guard Sophie Richmond (5-foot-4) will be playing collegiate ball next year…but it will be softball rather than basketball.

Among the key players coming back to the Spartan team next year will be both those post players who lost games due to concussions, Isis Beh and Sarah Dudley.   

“I’ve already been contacted by several colleges and universities about playing basketball at the next level,” Beh said. “But I’ve still got another season here and I love our coaches. (Head coach) Holly (Gillette) is so supportive. She cares about how we are doing in school and about our family.”  

A masters of education graduate from Utah State University, Gillette does not teach at Murray High, though she says she may add that to her plate in the future.

“I have two young kids at home (ages 6 and 1), so they keep me busy enough, along with coaching, for now,” Gillette said. 

Her position at Murray is Gillette’s first as a head coach, following assistant girls basketball coaching stints at Hunter, Riverton and Herriman High Schools.

“I waited for just the right head coaching job before going after it,” she added.   

Gillette has seen some of her previous standout players go on to play women’s basketball in college, including Shay Potter (Montana Tech) and Cory Stout (Southern Virginia University) two years ago, along with Jurnee Murray (Lower Columbia College, Wash.) last year. 

In addition to focusing her attention on this year’s team, Gillette also had her eyes on the future. She knows the only way the Murray girls basketball team can be competitive in the years ahead, is if girls begin playing in competitive leagues at a younger age. To that end, last fall she helped establish three such teams, all with young ladies who will one day attend Murray High.

“We had a tryout for elementary and junior high girls and had enough come out to make three teams,” Gillette said. “So this winter we had an eighth-grade team (girls who can try out for the high school varsity team a year from now, as freshman), a seventh-grade team and a combined fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade team.”

Gillette hopes to grow those numbers enough a year from now to establish separate fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade teams.

“The sooner we can get young girls playing basketball with the same girls they will go to high school with, the better,” she concluded.