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The City Journals

Corner Canyon girls basketball ranked high in state

Feb 04, 2019 11:07AM ● By Catherine Garrett

Corner Canyon is off to a 14-4 start this season and is currently ranked second in the state in 5A. (Photo courtesy Mark Woods)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

The Corner Canyon High girls basketball team has started off the season 14-4 and currently holds a No. 2 ranking in 5A statewide, with three of its four losses to out-of-state teams at preseason tournaments. 

The Chargers began the season in the La Jolla Country Day School Sweet 16 tournament and went 2-2 against tough teams from California and Arizona, including 18th-ranked Millennium, Arizona. In that matchup, the Chargers were down just two points entering the fourth quarter and ended up losing 49-39.

“I think that game taught us that we can hang with anyone and that we need to not doubt ourselves,” head coach Jeramy Acker said.

Corner Canyon’s wins in their first tournament were over Canyon Springs, California 57-53 and Mater Dei, California 52-25.

Back home, the Chargers won its next four games against Maple Mountain, East, Woods Cross and Highland — by an average of 20 points. Following two losses to Soda Springs, Idaho 63-60 and Copper Hills 56-46 in its own Winter Classic in mid-December, the squad defeated Layton and Box Elder in close games before a double-digit win over American Fork 65-52. In Region 7 matchups, Corner Canyon has defeated Jordan 62-39, Brighton 59-20, Timpview 65-50, Alta 73-37 and Cottonwood 67-25.

“We’ve been playing better than I anticipated with having a majority of our varsity players from last season graduated,” Acker said. “We’re in the best place mentally and physically as we’ve ever been here.”

Two-time First Team All-State guard Kemery Martin and two-time Second Team All-State forward Jaeden Vaifanua continue to lead the Chargers on the floor with the pair averaging 36 points and 15 rebounds a game. “They have definitely been our production leaders, but this year they have also taken on more responsibility with the cultural aspect of our program as well,” Acker said.

Martin said she is trying to “just play and have fun” in her last year of high school ball while Vaifanua has focused on being a solid, consistent teammate. “I think the stats I put up are needed to help win games, but everyone on the team has been a huge help to what we’re trying to do to win and strengthen the program as a whole,” Vaifanua said.

Seniors Megan Astle, a 5'6" point guard, and Alex Wright, a 5'7" small forward, are also starting contributors for Corner Canyon and “alternate as third leading scorer,” according to Acker. Senior Marissa Wicherski is also providing depth down low for the team. “She’s a selfless, hardworking big who gives us an additional post,” Acker said.

Acker said the preseason has helped everyone settle into their roles as they try to consistently improve. “We’ve learned that we have to take care of our own team in preparation and then trying to play our best regardless of who we play,” Acker said. “We’ve let some games slip away this year so we are really trying to focus in on playing for four complete quarters.”

Martin said the squad has been progressing and growing through the first several games of the season. “Each game there has been something to get better and learn from and we have been taking advantage of that,” she said.

Vaifanua feels the Chargers lost some games they were in control of, but the team’s current five-game winning streak has come because they have “pulled together.” “We know what works for us as a team and we just need to keep getting better at those things,” she said.

Also on the Chargers squad this season are senior Marinn Duncan; juniors Abby Kleinman, Zoe Nielsen, Maggie Ramos and Tricia Tanner; sophomores Baylee Bodily and Alexa Orten; and freshmen Natalie Newton and Kira Rhay.

Acker is being assisted on the coaching staff by Andie Nicholes, Heather Humble, Brian Vaifanua, Christie Duke and Lexi Gagon.

With Corner Canyon being 4-0 early on in region play, Martin and Vaifanua agree the team needs to put out the same effort each game regardless of the opponent. “It’s really important for us as a team to not change the way we should play because of the level of competition,” Martin said. “We need to be a good, steady and consistent team so when it comes to state, we are ready for whatever hits us.” 

“The key for us is to not overlook any of the teams we’re about to play,” Vaifanua said. “It’s important we play our best against every team in our region in order to be successful before state.”

Acker is stressing the need to stay healthy and competitive to continue success on the court this season. “Off the floor, our goals beyond basketball are really to teach these girls to lead and be strong and powerful members of society as they leave us,” he said.