For most high school athletes, the state tournament is the biggest stage they have ever played on in their careers. It can bring emotions ranging from pure joy to absolute heartbreak.
Friday, 16 2A girls basketball teams will be slimmed down to eight as the state tournament commences at Orem High School. The teams that are fortunate enough to win will move on to play the following week where the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will be played in Richfield, Utah. But getting past the first round is all that is on the coaches’ minds now.
“We definitely don’t take any team light or for granted,” Delta head coach Kurtis Topham said. “We were in a scenario a couple years ago where we were a No. 1 seed and got beat by a No. 4 seed.”
Delta, the 2015 champions, will return to the 2016 tournament with a record of 20-1 and a target on its back. The Rabbits are paired up with Region 14’s Waterford.
“We know that they are very capable of playing very well,” Topham said. “(Caitlin Shreeve) is a very good player for them. She is a handful and she works really hard.”
Another serious contender for the championship is Millard. The Eagles are in the same region as the returning champions and had the chance to play them twice in region play. Both games ended in a Delta win by four or fewer points.
Millard is matched up against Rowland Hall, a third seed from Region 14.
“From what I’ve found out, they play really good team defense,” Millard head coach Darrin Rhodes said. “Our defense, we’ve been one of the best defenses in the state, period, this year. So I think we should be able to give them a lot of trouble on defense.”
Both Topham and Rhodes attribute their teams' success to the other teams in Region 13. Rhodes believes the strength of Region 13 will be shown in the first round.
“I really think our region will advance all four teams,” Rhodes said. “A lot of the regions, I don’t think, from top to bottom are as tough and strong as our region is, which really helps us.”
Another thing both coaches agree on is looking past the first game can be a costly mistake. Any team that looks too far ahead is asking for trouble, which is why both Topham and Rhodes are relaying that to their teams in order to keep them focused.