Mike Terry, Deseret News
TAYLORSVILLE — It's all that's heard lately: Syracuse wins again.
With their 40-31 victory over the Cottonwood Colts in the 5A quarterfinals on Wednesday evening, the Titans improved to 22-0 on the season and earned their 47th consecutive victory.
But something was different. This time, the game had actually been in jeopardy.
"We won," Syracuse coach Rob Reisbeck said afterward, relieved. "Sometimes you've got to win ugly."
In typical Titan fashion, Syracuse jumped out to a quick lead, shutting out the Colts in the first eight minutes, and heading to a 12-0 lead.
But Cottonwood wasn't about to lie down and hand over a berth to the semifinals. The Colts bounced right back with a 12-point quarter of their own to pull within seven points at halftime.
"We started out well, but we relaxed in the second quarter and they kept at it," Reisbeck said. "Cottonwood came ready to play and really got after us."
The Colts played with Syracuse throughout the second half and kept the threat of an upset alive until the final seconds.
"The girls executed the game play to a T," Cottonwood coach Janae Hirschi said of how her team came closer than any other team has this season to giving the Titans their first loss. "They really bought into, 'slow down, slow it down.'"
Hirschi was proud of how her players fought back, didn't get intimidated by their opponent, and especially, of how far they've come.
"This team is night and day from two years ago," she said. "And with a little more luck, we could have pulled (the upset) off. People don't believe that, but people also thought we'd get blown out."
She added, "We played with pride, fought and finished the game. Even in the final seconds we were going hard."
Cottonwood scored its final basket with one second left on the clock to shrink the deficit to single digits.
Brittney Martin led the Titans' offense with 12 points, four rebounds and three steals. Hailee Perry added nine points on 4-for-4 shooting and had five steals.
"(Perry) played well tonight," Reisbeck said of his 5-foot-1 guard. "She pushed the ball up the floor and shot well."
The Colts were led by the scoring of Fehi Fakailoatonga, who had 10 points, and the rebounding of Vika Havili, who pulled down a game-high 14 boards. The entire Cottonwood team outrebounded Syracuse, grabbing 40 rebounds compared to 23 for the Titans.
The stat that broke the backs of the Colts was turnovers. Cottonwood gave the ball away 29 times, which turned into 26 points for the Titans.
The Titans will now meet Pleasant Grove in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at the Salt Lake Community College. The two have not met this season but Syracuse beat the Vikings in the championship game last season.