TAYLORSVILLE — The veins of Bingham’s Mackenzie Bruggeman were pumping ice — but not in a good way. The usually reliable forward was dead cold, and despite an inordinate amount of great looks from the high post, she watched a fusillade of shots clank off the iron time after time.
It wasn’t her night.
With the Miners clinging to a one-point lead against Syracuse with 36 seconds remaining in regulation, Bruggeman corralled an entry pass on the low block. She had missed eight straight. Five in the fourth quarter alone.
Undeterred by her struggles, the senior muscled a layup softly off the glass that fell innocently through the twine.
The bucket, after Bruggeman chased down a defensive rebound, proved to be the deciding factor Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the 5A girls tournament at Salt Lake Community College. The undefeated Miners had survived, 43-36, at the end of Bruggeman’s nightmare.
“It’s hard not to get frustrated with myself because that’s the natural thing to do,” Bruggeman, who finished with 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting, said. “The only thing I can do is stay positive and keep trying to do it for my team.”
Bingham coach Rand Rasmussen's faith in Bruggeman never wavered.
“What I told her (in) the last timeout,” he explained, “I said, ‘You’re probably due. You’re going to be the one.’
"And she was.”
Syracuse (11-11) was the early aggressor. The Titans, who had won two of the past three 5A titles, took an 11-5 lead when Paige Trimble swished a 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds to go in the first quarter
It was the second consecutive night Bingham trailed after the opening eight minutes.
“We said from the start that we’d be the hunted and I think we are,” Rasmussen said.
The Miners adapted to the larger venue, and captured their first lead in the middle of a 10-0 run to start the second quarter off Bruggeman’s transition layup with 6:40 left in the half.
After being outscored 20-11 in the second quarter, Syracuse coach Rob Reisbeck employed a morphing three-quarters press and full-court press to begin the second half.
“Normally we’re always (a) full-court pressure type of team,” Reisbeck said. “We tried something different in the first half and then we went back to what we’re good at. When the kids fly around we’re dangerous.”
The purpose of the press was to force Bingham’s quick-dribble guard, Madison Aulai-Roe, to distribute the ball to supporting players before half court instead of initiating offensive sets.
“Madison is a great point guard and she’s the one that gets everything going,” Reisbeck said. “That was our goal (to get it out of her hands) and see who else was going to step up for them.”
The idea panned out and the Miners shot 4 of 18 in the final two quarters.
Trailing 31-24, the Titans held Bingham (23-0) scoreless for eight minutes. Then, with 7:23 in the fourth quarter, they tasted their first lead since 11-9 with 7:14 in the second quarter off a 10-0 run that culminated when Trimble knocked down a 15-foot corner jumper.
Trimble and Takenna Hamblin accounted for all 10 points in the run.
“I think they’re trying to figure out what will work and what wouldn’t work,” Rasmussen said of the varying defensive strategies in the first two rounds. “It’s hard for us because we’ve got to try and prepare for the whole darn thing. I think they throw different tweaks to see how we’ll handle it. We’re going to see something new everyday.”
On the ropes, the hunted started hunting. The Miners, enthusiastically switching screens and crashing the boards, frustrated Syracuse into five turnovers and 1-of-4 shooting from the field for the final seven minutes.
At 6:22, Jillian Powell clogged the bleeding with a pull-up jumper just inside the arc. The basket sparked a 12-2 run to close the game.
“I think being in that situation — it’s new,” Reisbeck said. “You’re playing on a big stage against a team that hasn’t lost. I’m proud of our kids. They fought to the end, and we had our opportunities.”
The Miners, who connected on 11 of 12 from the line, finally exhaled when Powell, an 82 percent free-throw shooter who Rasmussen said, “we try and get the ball in her hands,” buried both freebies in a 1-and-1 situation.