High school girl's basketball: Unlikely hero lifts the Bonneville Lakers to victory
WASHINGTON TERRACE — Kayla Eilertson blushed as the crowd swarmed the court and hoisted her into the air.
The sophomore guard only scored three points in Bonneville's 48-45 win over Mountain Crest, but it happened to be just about the most spectacular three points scored in the battle of Region 5 unbeatens Tuesday night.
"I don't know what it was, but who cares," said her teammate, senior forward McKinlee Westmoreland, who led the Lakers' offense with 16 points. "That was a huge win for us. I can't remember the last time we beat Mountain Crest."
No one will be forgetting this Laker win after the lanky sophomore turned a blown play into a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
"The ball was supposed to go to her," said Bonneville head coach Mike Russell. "But she got there early."
Eilertson said she looked for her teammate Courtney Porter, who'd had the hot hand in the second half. But she was covered.
"I looked at Courtney, and then I looked at the clock and saw two seconds left," said Eilertson. "So I just shot it."
It was not pretty. But it was good.
Both teams battled hard and both coaches came up with good adjustments to the other's strategy. In the end, the Lakers' ability to slow the game, grab rebounds and make free throws made the difference.
"They played smart," said Mountain Crest head coach Candace Thornton. "Bonneville planned well. I'm super proud of the way my girls played defense. … But free throws hurt us. We make a couple of those and this game is ours."
Mountain Crest was 10-of-19 from the foul line, while Bonneville was 14-of-24. She said the Mustangs "like to run and they like a much slower game."
The Lakers were able to control the tempo of the game most of the time.
Foul trouble plagued both teams as Bonneville had to sit and then lost junior guard Emilie Volk. She only scored eight points, and Russell said playing without her is difficult for the Lakers.
"It's a confidence thing," he said. "When Emilie is out there, she's just a leader. Just her presence on the court helps us. It definitely hurt to lose her."
Mountain Crest forward Karlee Kartchner also had to leave the game in the first half with foul trouble, but she managed to make it to the final buzzer with four fouls. She leads the state in scoring and was phenomenal in the first quarter. The Lakers double-teamed her down low in the second quarter and were able to slow her to just three of her 20 total points in that second quarter.
With Volk on the bench, Porter sparked the Lakers with a couple of steals and some key baskets. She finished with 11 points.
"She's only a sophomore," said Russell, "but she is such a heady player. Our offense wasn't working for a while and then she gets a steal, makes a layup and then hits a 3."
He agreed with his players that the win was special.
"It means a lot," he said. "It's sole possession of Region 5. To be four games in and be 4-0 means a lot."
He praised his team's defense, but more importantly their effort.
"They play that way regardless of who we're playing, all out for four quarters," he said. "And we're proud of them as coaches."