Vastly improved Olympus girls basketball team looks to be a factor in Region 6
Jan 22, 2019 02:24PM
By Josh McFadden
Taygin Hart takes off down the court during a non-region game. The senior is helping to lead the Titans turnaround this season. (Photo courtesy Whitney Hunsaker)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
Last season, the Olympus girls basketball team won just one game in 21 tries. The Titans won eight times that many this season — just two games into region play.
The Titans were a respectable 6-5 during the non-region portion of its schedule. Of course, considering where the team was a year ago, the above .500 mark was quite an achievement.
During non-league action, Olympus defeated Stansbury, Cottonwood, West Jordan, Alta, Summit Academy and Roy. Five of those wins were by double digits, with two coming by more than 48 points: 72-29 over Cottonwood on Dec. 4 and 69-21 over Roy on Jan. 3.
Not bad for a team that lost 20 games last season by an average score of 60-35.
“We have taken pride in our defense,” said head coach Whitney Hunsaker. “We are executing offenses but also creating our own offenses as well. It has been a blast to teach these girls basics of offenses and potential options available to them to then see them transition into making their own offensive decisions so we don't become mechanical.”
The improvement didn’t end in non-region play. When Olympus tipped off its Region 6 schedule at Skyline on Jan. 8, it rode the momentum of two straight wins and blitzed its rivals 61-38. The Titans led 25-14 at the halftime break and didn’t let up in the second half. Alyssa Blanck, a 6-foot freshman, had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Veteran Taygin DeHart had 15 points and eight rebounds as the duo dominated the Eagles. Jackie Soltis chipped in nine points as the Titans won a region game for the first time since February 2017 when they beat Cyprus 50-29.
Three nights later, Olympus edged West 52-48 on the road to give the program its first back-to-back region victories since it won five in row at the end of the 2015–16 season. Olympus was ahead comfortably at halftime, 26-14, but had to withstand a West rally in the fourth quarter to hold onto the four-point win.
The turnaround from last year is nothing short of astounding.
A year ago, Skyline pasted the Titans in the teams’ two matchups by 23 and 41 points; West bullied Olympus last season 27 and 20 points in the two meetings. Things sure have changed.
“We are just really focused,” Hunsaker said. “We are playing as a team, we are connecting as a team, and everyone has bought into their roles and exceeding expectations in their roles. We have also been doing a great job defensively. The girls are taking pride in their defense, which is so fun.”
Blanck is a big reason why. The ninth-grader has been a welcome addition to head coach Whitney Hunsaker’s team. Through 13 games, she was averaging 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game. She is showing her versatility by leading the team in three-point shooting as well. After non-league play and the first two region games, she had made 24 shots from behind the arc.
“[Blanck] is playing like a senior,” Hunsaker said. “She is composed, shooting the ball well and she sees the court magnificently. Alyssa has been a great addition to our program.”
DeHart, a senior, and junior Monet Clough both tallied 9.1 points and about five rebounds per game during that stretch. Soltis, meanwhile, is contributing 8.5 points per game.
“[Dehart] has been a great leader, and the team feeds off of her energy,” Hunsaker said. “She keeps everyone composed, and she keeps everyone together. She is doing a great job of leading, and she has been consistently scoring this year.”
Last season, Olympus eclipsed 40 points just five games all season. The Titans broke the 50-point mark 10 times in their first 13 tries this season.
Olympus appears to be back on track for a postseason berth — something it last accomplished in the 2015–16 campaign. The Titans face Region 6 opponents two times each. Their final game is Feb. 12 at East. If they finish in the top four of the six-team region, they’ll be back in the state tournament.