I think we just played really good as a team today. We were moving the ball and everyone was making their shots. —Davis junior guard Kayley Neilson
TAYLORSVILLE — Davis High girls basketball coach Anne Jones had some great advice for her team as they prepared for the opening round of this year's 5A state tournament.
Just breathe and have fun.
And when it came time for Tuesday night's tipoff against Region 4 runner-up Lone Peak, the Darts did just that.
Junior guard Kayley Neilson scored 14 points, senior guard Sarah Beecher and junior guard/forward McKenzie Day added 13 points apiece and junior guard/forward Meaghan David contributed 11 more as Davis knocked off the Knights 69-55 to move into Thursday's 5A quarterfinals against Brighton.
"I think we just played really good as a team today," Neilson said after the Darts piled up 42 first-half points, led by as many as 26 early in the fourth period and then coasted to the eventual 14-point victory. "We were moving the ball and everyone was making their shots.
"Our bench really stepped it up tonight. They came in and they were all ready to go.
"We feel great, I mean, it's state and it's the funnest part of the season," she said.
Indeed, because they had so much fun Tuesday, the Darts are still breathing in this year's state tournament.
"We just talked about breathing — just breathe and have fun," Jones said. "Just have fun here because not very many teams get to make it here, and so we wanted to just have some fun.
"And I think they settled down and were very unselfish tonight, very unselfish. We made the next pass, the sure pass; we talked about making the next sure pass, and I think that's what we did."
Sure, Davis (11-11) might've had a somewhat mediocre regular-season showing this year, especially by the Darts' always-stellar standards.
But there was definitely nothing mediocre about the Darts' first-round performance in the state tournament.
No, superlatives like solid, marvelous and certainly mighty impressive might apply instead, as the Kaysville crew cruised to a convincing victory at Salt Lake Community College's Bruin Arena.
With Beecher, Day and Brittany Braithwaite taking turns with the first-quarter scoring, the Darts built a 20-13 lead at the first stop. Then Neilson, Ashley Hale, David and Malia Tupuola started putting points up on the scoreboard in the second period and, by the time the halftime buzzer blared, the Darts held an 18-point lead at 42-24.
With David and Tupuola doing much of the damage, the Darts boosted their bulge to 24 points, 57-33, at the end of the third quarter and extended it to 26 on Day's bucket to begin the final period before Kelsey McCann brought Lone Peak back down the stretch to make the final score more respectable.
McCann canned a game-high 21 points, 14 of those coming in the fourth quarter alone when the Knights outscored Davis 22-12 and the Darts clanked seven free throws. But it still wasn't enough to prevent Lone Peak (12-9) from packing up and exiting this year's state tourney.
Coach Jones couldn't help but be pleased with her team's opening-night showing on the state tourney stage.
"I'm thrilled, just thrilled," she said. "We play in an extremely, extremely tough region in Region 1 and I think it got us ready to play. We just came out and we wanted to be the aggressor to begin with; we wanted to set the tone, and I can't say enough about our subs that came off the bench tonight. They came out confident and got the job done defensively and offensively.
"I think they just settled down," she said of her team's impressive first-half shooting display. "You come to the state tournament and we've got one senior on the team and really maybe two or three kids that have played here. Last year we had so many seniors.
"It was awesome because I think we're growing as a team. We've grown a lot from that first game and we're just real young, but not anymore. We can't rely on that anymore because we're now 22 games into the season. They have to be confident and know that they're good players and that they can play together and they can play with anyone, really."
Jones said her team's .500 overall record, which included a lopsided season-opening loss to the same Brighton squad the Darts will face in Thursday's quarterfinals, is pretty deceiving.
"If you look at our preseason schedule, we played all of the best teams," she said. "And our record, I don't think, says what kind of team we are. I think our preseason really helped us for region and now we're at state.
"First game, we were deer in headlights. That's what we were, and Brighton is a very, very good team. They're young, too, but they're just very good basketball players and they've got some really exceptional athletes on their team, so it'll be a battle (in their 5A tourney rematch). We've gotta bring our 'A' game.
"We've got another game, so we'll just take it a game at a time and come back with guns loaded and see what we can do," Jones added.
Of her team's balanced scoring and willingness to share the basketball, Jones said that's simply her philosophy of how the game should be played.
"That's what basketball's all about, right?" she said. "There's five kids out there; there's a bunch of kids sitting on the bench, and if you don't share the basketball you'll never win. And we talked about that tonight — to be unselfish and you make the next, sure pass.
"I thought we might come out a little bit tight, but again we just talked about just breathing — just breathe, have some fun; have some fun. But we wanted to be the aggressors, too. We didn't want to just lay back and just pass the ball around. We wanted to be aggressive, and I thought we were aggressive offensively and I thought we were aggressive defensively."