TAYLORSVILLE — Especially when it comes to the state tournament, competition toughens up and no single victory comes easy. But at the end of the day, a win is a win, albeit an ugly one.
Tuesday night at Salt Lake City Community College, undefeated Copper Hills moved on to the quarterfinals of the 5A state tournament with a 44-24 win over Davis, but it was rough at times for the Grizzlies.
Copper Hills led from end to end against Davis but the game was seemingly not in control for the Grizzlies until late in the game.
“There are no bad teams here at the tournament so you just have to survive and advance and find a way to win,” Copper Hills head coach Ben Morley said. “Davis is an excellent defensive team, they are one of the best we have faced all year so it wasn’t a shock to us that we would struggle in spots to score.”
The Grizzlies’ offense, which is ranked second in 5A with a scoring average of 60.4 points per game, struggled, particularly in the first half. However, their defensive effort carried the Grizzlies as they shut down the Darts on one end of the court to make up for the sub-par performance on the other end.
Copper Hills held their opponents to a mere four points in the first quarter but the most impressive stretch came in the second quarter when they held its opponent scoreless.
“You know we stressed that to our girls all week long that when you come to a new environment there is a bit of nervous energy a little bit of pressure,” Morley said. “Defense has to travel, no matter where you go.”
At the half, Copper Hills led 17-4 and both teams really turned up the offensive intensity in the second half. After five quick points from the Darts’ Hannah Snell to start the half, the Grizzlies went on a 13-0 run, at which point they led 30-9.
In the fourth quarter, the Darts, led by Snell, who scored a team-high 12 points, did their best to cut the Grizzlies’ lead but their efforts were not enough. Copper Hills senior Shirsten Wissinger, who was quiet for much of the game, came alive late and put the game away as she scored seven of her team’s last 10 points.
Copper Hills will face the winner of the Riverton-Clearfield in the quarterfinals and will look to improve offensively more than anything as the competition will only get tougher as the tournament progresses.
“We were very tentative all game long with the ball in our hands. We weren’t as confident as we usually are in the decisions we make,” Morley said. “Our girls have to get their mindset back, their confidence, with the ball in their hands.”
Interestingly enough, the other undefeated team in the 5A field, Layton, also had a difficult time in their respective game earlier in the day but Morley suggests that it is not a question of pressure from being undefeated.
“At this point, records don’t matter, it’s lose or go home,” Morley said. “I don’t think pressure about our record has anything to do with it, it’s just the state tournament. It happens every year, good teams come to play and they are well coached.”
Copper Hills will play in the quarterfinals Thursday at 2:30 again at SLCC.