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1A girls high school basketball: Badgers get strength from coach's example

Published: Thursday, Feb. 16 2012 11:48 p.m. MST

RICHFIELD — When the Wayne Badgers find themselves in a tough situation on the basketball court, they know exactly how to summon strength.

"We pat our heart right here, and we say, 'We believe,'" said Darci Clark, who demonstrates by touching her hand to her chest as she and her teammates celebrate their 63-30 quarterfinal victory over Layton Christian Thursday at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.

The players make the motion and say the words in honor of their coach Don Torgerson, who had his second heart transplant in November.

"We believe in ourselves because he believes in us," said Whitney Coleman, who scored 10 points in the win. "We feel that if we believe, we can achieve anything."

They look at Torgerson's recovery from a second heart transplant as a sign that they they are as tough as he is.

"We click with our coaches," said Clark. "They're almost like our dads."

For some of the girls, first-year head coach Jan Ellett is literally Dad. His two daughters, Hannah and Maggie, a freshman and sophomore, are part of the reason he applied for the job when Wayne athletic director Heidi Woolsey decided to step down.

He said he knew when he applied for the job that this year's team was something special.

"I assisted last year," said Ellett. "I knew what we had coming back."

The Badgers jumped out to a 19-4 lead and never really slowed down, despite the Eagles' athleticism.

"I think our pressure defense right off the bat threw them out of their offense," said Ellett. It was a physical game and the Eagles got their share of blocks, but the Badgers managed to beat them on the boards.

"I think it's going to be defense and rebounds that win this tournament," said Ellett.

He started his team in a man-to-man defense and then switched to zone, something he said they almost always do.

"Our kids like to play a man defense," he said. It also energizes the girls from the opening whistle.

Ellett said despite losing two games in region play to Bryce Valley, neither the coaches nor the players doubted that they could make a serious run at the 1A state title.

"I think it's their work ethic," he said. "They believe they're going to win every game. They buy into that."

His players said they would do anything their coaches ask because they know the men have faith in them.

"I think our coaches have always believed in us," said Haley Robins, who led all scorers with 16 points.

And they said there is no doubt they want that state title.

"It burns," said Coleman. "It's always been our goal."

Layton Christian was led by Alissa Atisme, who scored nine points, and Shayla Simpson, who added seven points. The team had some nice runs and impressive blocked shots, especially in the second half.

The win means Wayne will take on top-ranked Rich at 7:30 in Friday's semifinal. The loss sends Layton Christian to the consolation bracket where the Eagles will face Green River at noon.

EMAIL: adonaldson@desnews.com

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