TAYLORSVILLE — Perhaps losing to Layton was a blessing in disguise.
It was heartbreaking at the time, and it could have jeopardized the Fremont girls basketball team’s chance at the Region 1 title.
But now, two weeks later and with the 5A state tournament a day away, that trial seems to have strengthened the Silver Wolves — both on the court and in their resolve.
And it didn’t hurt their placement in the bracket either.
“I would be a liar if I didn’t say I’m glad to be on the opposite side of the bracket from Riverton,” Fremont coach Lisa Dalebout said, noting the Riverton Silverwolves’ undefeated record and 20-point average margin of victory.
“But the entire tournament field is going to be tough,” she said. “Losing to Layton refocused our team. They did a great job exploiting some of our weaknesses; we learned a lot about ourselves in that loss, and it gave us an opportunity to correct some of those things.”
Fremont, which won its final two region games, defeated the Lancers earlier in the season and split the Region 1 title with Layton. A coin flip decided seeding and the Silver Wolves will enter the postseason, which begins Tuesday at Salt Lake Community College, in the No. 2 spot against Region 4 No. 3 seed Lehi.
“We have been keeping our eye on Region 4 all season, knowing our region matched up against them at state,” Dalebout said. “Riverton is an incredible team and Lehi matched up well against them. I don’t expect anything other than their very best.”
The Silver Wolves are led on the court by shooter Shelbee Molen, who averages 17.3 points and three 3-pointers per game, and Amanda Wayment, who averages 14.9 points per game.
The Pioneers are led by the scoring of senior guard Kaylie Bartholomew, who averages 13.0 points per contest.
Layton claimed the top seed and will meet American Fork, the fourth seed from Region 4, in the 12:50 p.m. time slot.
“Jaden Anderson dominates the inside for Layton,” Dalebout said of the 6-foot-1 senior, “and No. 2 (Cassidy Anderson) has come up big for them a lot.”
Meanwhile, defending champion Riverton cruised through the regular season with eyes on the possibility of a repeat. The Silverwolves have averaged 58.2 points per game while giving up just 35.1.
“Shelby Richards is one of the better guards in the entire state,” Dalebout said of the Riverton senior, who transferred from Bingham after her sophomore season. “She is a ferocious player.”
Richards is averaging 14.3 points per game while her sister, Latisha Richards, is averaging 8.9.
The Granger Lancers are in the midst of their best season in school history after reaching 16 wins and capturing the Region 2 title, both for the first time in school history. The up-and-coming team, which is led by junior guard Jessica Matheson, looks to continue its unprecedented season when it faces Region 3 No. 4 seed Bingham at 5:50 p.m.
Matheson is leading 5A in assists (5.4 per game) and steals (4.1 pg) and is second in the classification in scoring with 18.2 points per game.
Region 3 champion Brighton will take on Hunter, the fourth seed from Region 2, at 7:30 p.m. The Bengals, who suffered a midseason losing streak, rebounded at the end of the year, winning their final seven games to secure the league title.
“Brighton has a whole slug of good kids, and they’re all tall,” Dalebout said. Lindsey Johnson is leading the Bengals’ effort with 10.2 points per game while senior forward Maddy Chin has contributed 9.4.
“I have been impressed with the seniors across the state, as well as the underclassmen, which are coming up big,” Dalebout said.
She added that, while Riverton has clearly set itself apart with an undefeated regular season, there are many talented teams that could cause trouble during the state tournament this week.
“It is really a heartbreaking, emotional, amazing week,” Dalebout said. “It is a neat opportunity to be a part of it. We are grateful to be there.”
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.