TAYLORSVILLE — Most teams would’ve been intimidated by the prospect of facing 4A’s top-ranked team in the first round — but not Skyline.
Not only had Skyline already beaten No. 1 Sky View back in November, but the players knew they would’ve likely been ranked first heading into the playoffs had a couple of late-season injuries not contributed to some surprising losses.
Finally healthy again for Monday’s playoff opener, Skyline’s confidence and defensive tenacity were simply too much for Sky View to handle. After a slow start, the Eagles seized momentum late in the first half and never looked back on their way to an impressive 56-47 victory at Salt Lake Community College.
“We have a young team and we haven’t had much state experience, so I think the first half was just us getting our jitters out. As we got more comfortable on the floor it showed on the floor in our game,” said Skyline coach Lynette Schroeder.
The result was a terrific defensive display that flustered 4A’s highest-scoring team all night. Sky View came into the game averaging 67 points per game, but it struggled shooting from the field all game, making just 30 percent (15 of 49) of its shots and turning it over 23 times.
“That’s our style of play. We push defense all the time. I tell the girls, 'If you can’t defend, you won’t play,' so they know defense is the biggest part of our game,” said Schroeder.
Skyline’s offense came to play as well. Trailing 23-17 late in the first half, the Eagles ended the quarter on a 9-0 run as Shayla Davis buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Skyline continued to push the tempo in the second half, opening up a 41-30 lead after three quarters and stretching it to 13 at one point in the fourth quarter.
That offensive assertiveness was missing late in the season when Skyline went 4-3, a stretch that derailed its region title hopes. Sydnee Taylor, Skyline’s leading scorer, missed four of those games with an ankle injury while fellow senior Mia Mortensen missed three with an elbow injury.
Their senior leadership — the only two on the team — was lacking in those late losses, but that wasn’t a problem on Monday as Taylor finished with 15 points and Mortensen added six.
“I’m very proud of how they rebounded back. The injuries as we start to look back were kind of a blessing in disguise because it allowed our bench to get minutes they normally wouldn’t,” said Taylor.
That depth, and the obvious confidence of bouncing Sky View from the tournament, makes Skyline a very dangerous team the rest of the week.