TAYLORSVILLE — The Bonneville girls basketball team looks to focus its attention internally. Rather than worry about the abilities of opposing teams, the Lakers prefer to build their game plan around their own strengths.
The strategy has worked for head coach Mike Russell and his second-ranked team all season, and it was successful again Monday when the Lakers defeated Murray, 56-35, in the first round of the Class 4A State Tournament at Salt Lake Community College.
“We knew that Murray had some good post players and we wanted to try to limit them,” Russell said, “But we don’t really ever focus too much on what another team does. It’s more about what we’re going to do. (We) just play our game and try to get out a run a little bit, which we did.”
Bonneville scored in its first possession, but Murray retaliated with a couple quick baskets and took the lead — its last lead — with 3:55 left in the first quarter. Moments later, Kayla Eilertson hit two free throws for Bonneville and the Lakers never looked back.
After taking a 26-15 lead into the halftime locker room, Bonneville barreled into the second half on a 15-4 scoring run, eight of which belonged to Eilertson.
“(The) first half for any team, you’re working out the jitters a little bit,” Russell said. “(We're) just trying to get the first half in the state tournament under your belt and that’s, I think, what we did. We settled down a little bit, reminded what we did to get us where we’re at. We didn’t do anything different, just played a little bit better, I think — a little bit more fundamental, more in control.”
Eilertson, a senior forward, finished with 12 points and senior forward Abby Toller had 11 points. Courtney Porter dictated the pace of the game throughout the contest and finished with eight points.
“We have a good guard line, so that helps with any type of pressure teams throw at us,” Russell said, noting Murray’s full-court press. “We’re very unselfish, too, so we don’t care who scores, who gets the credit, we just want to score. That’s kind of why we’ve been as good as we’ve been because of unselfish players.”
In spite of the differences between the state tournament and a regular-season game, Russell was, overall, please with his team’s performance.
“It’s hard to play after a break, like not practicing on a Sunday, “ he said. “(I’m) definitely proud of the way we played today, especially playing at 12:50 p.m. when you’re used to playing later in the day. Overall, we’re happy. We’ve got some things to work on, which is good at this point in the season. We aren’t where we want to be but we feel like we’re getting there.”
Bonneville will take the floor again Wednesday at 5:50 p.m.
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.