High school girls basketball: Syracuse caps perfect season with 5A championship against Weber
Tom Smart, Deseret News
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TAYLORSVILLE — Z drills are like the secret ingredient in an award-winning recipe.
The Syracuse girls basketball team acknowledges the dreaded conditioning drill is the key to their ability to play relentless, stifling defense, but they aren't willing to reveal just exactly what it is.
"We can't let out our secret," said Brittney Martin, who earned All-Tournament MVP honors behind an 18 point, six assist, seven steal and eight rebound performance that helped the Titans earn their second title in three years with a 63-50 win over Weber. "It sucks. Let's just say that."
It may be dreaded more by opponents from now on than it is by the Titans. The players admit it is conditioning that enables them to play the up-tempo style that helped them overcome a talented Weber squad for the third time this season. The win on Saturday at Salt Lake Community college caps a 22-0 season. And for Martin, who has started all four years of her high school career, it means she finishes with an impressive 89-5 record.
"I was a little puzzled," said Martin when asked about the accomplishment. "That's like a bomb record for four years of play. That just shows how hard we work and how hard the coaches push us. It's just effort and heart."
Makenlee Williams, also a senior, said the girls didn't talk about their astounding record because being undefeated was never their goal.
"This was our goal," said Williams, who had just two points, but grabbed six rebounds and five assists. "What our record was, even if we never won, this is what mattered. And we did it."
And they did it in spectacular fashion.
The 5A title game was a thriller for the first half. Back and forth with Weber chipping away at the Titan lead until Syracuse guard Natasha Monroe hit her only field goal of the half right at the buzzer that signaled the end of the second quarter.
"That's a big shot," said Syracuse head coach Rob Reisbeck. "They'd battled back, took the lead and then she hits a huge baseline jumper."
Halftime in the Syracuse locker room, however, was not pleasant despite a 26-25 lead. The Warriors had held Williams scoreless and Martin to just seven points.
"We weren't real happy at halftime," said Reisbeck. "They weren't real happy either — with their performance. We challenged them to step up and play Syracuse basketball."
Courtney Starks, who had her second double-double of the tournament with 19 points and 13 rebounds, said she was angry.
"I wasn't nervous, I was mad," she said. "My plan was to go out and do as much as I could, and even if I was tired, keep going. … We weren't flying around like we should have been in the first half."
Added Abby Call, who finished with 13 points, "They made us realize that we needed to come out and give it everything we've got. I wasn't worried because our team has a lot of trust in each other."
Williams, who was hampered by foul trouble, said she was frustrated, as well.
"This is what happened last time, and we lost," she said. So the teammates gathered and committed to playing the second half the way they knew they could.
Their energy was immediately different in the third quarter and they outscored the Warriors 20-8. It was a lead they would never relinquish.
"We just started doing what we've done all year, and that's play in-your-face defense," said Reisbeck. "We needed to push the tempo. In the first half, we slowed the ball down way too much. We just got out and ran. That's when we're at our best."