TAYLORSVILLE — The rest of the world might see a fifth-seeded basketball team that's lucky to be in the 4A state tournament.
But the Orem Tigers see themselves as contenders.
"I think our No. 5 seed is a little bit of a skewed seeding because we were one game out of finishing second in our region," said Orem head coach David Gilchrist after the Tigers upset the top-seeded Skyline Eagles 40-31 Tuesday night at Salt Lake Community College. "And our region is rough. Every night was a playoff atmosphere. If you didn't bring it, you were going to get beat — whether it was from the bottom of the region to the top. So it really prepared us for this kind of atmosphere."
The knowledge that they were a better a team than they might look on paper gave the players confidence coming into Tuesday's contest.
"We've played some of the best teams in the state pretty close, down the stretch," Gilchrist said. "We know if we play well, we have a chance to play with anybody and we believe that."
He said Skyline watched the Tigers' play-in game against Woods Cross on Saturday and may have been misled about the Tigers' capabilities.
"We had a rough go trying to get going," he said of the play-in game. "We know we didn't really show what we could do. We were confident. We believed."
That was evident Tuesday.
The Tigers grabbed control of the first-round game from the opening tipoff, but only owned a 19-10 lead by halftime.
"Skyline it tough to score on," Gilchrist said. "They're one of the leading defenses in the state. And we knew it was going to be a struggle."
While it was tough for the Tigers to score, their press and zone defense held the Eagles in check.
"We were able to pack it in and make it tough to get to the rim," he said. "We had to hope they didn't have a hot night shooting from the outside. And they didn't. they struggled a little bit in that respect, which was fortunate for us."
Skyline was led by junior Sydnee Taylor and Mia Mortensen, who scored 10 points each. Taylor and guard Caroline Li fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter as the Eagles were struggling to come back.
The Eagles had a big third quarter to pull within five points, but the Tigers were able to draw enough fouls to stay a step ahead. In fact, they relied soley on free throws in the final quarter.
That almost turned out to be a disaster as the Tigers struggled to make the free shots. Gilchrist tried to ease the pressure his players were feeling, but without success.
"I was trying to joke around with them when they were at the line because some of them were getting pretty uptight," he said. "I got a couple of them to smile but it didn't make the ball go in any better."
He knows his team can't continue to miss easy points and win more tournament games.
"They know it's vital to make those shots," he said. "Sometimes we're 25-33 and sometimes we're 13-30. That's just who we are."Comment on this story
Senior guard Tatiana Monsen did her part at the line, making 6 of 8 foul shots, while some of her teammates missed all of their opportunities. The team shot 50 percent for the game.
"It was pretty nerve-racking," said Monsen. "I knew our team would come together in the end, and I had confidence in every player."
She said the team felt "a little bit" like an underdog, but not enough to make her doubt what the Tigers could do.
"We had a really tough region and we learned a lot about our team," she said. "We still felt like a team that was a threat."