TAYLORSVILLE — The Salem Hills girls basketball team has put together several good quarters this season, but the third quarter of Wednesday's 4A state quarterfinal win over Skyline may have been its best ever.
Trailing 38-33 at the half, the Skyhawks came out hitting on all cylinders, outscoring the Eagles 26-8 to lead 59-46 entering the final period.
The key stretch was a 20-2 run at the start of the quarter during which Salem Hills put forth a furious pace that completely overwhelmed Skyline.
“It was right up there. It was as good as I’ve been around since I’ve been around,” said Salem Hills coach Kyle Francom when asked if it was the best quarter of work he's seen from his team.
Salem Hills' third quarter performance was set forth due to incurring a big deficit at the start of the second quarter. But instead of pout, Francom's girls stayed with the game plan and rallied.
“We got down 10 points in the first half and the thing I’m most proud of is we stayed together,” Francom said. “Sometimes teams want to come apart, but we stayed together, played within our system and played the right way.”
Leading the way during the third was the lethal cousin duo of senior guard Jane Nelson and sophomore forward Lauren Gustin. Time and again Nelson would execute relatively easy shots for her teammates and knock down open shots of her own.
“Jane Nelson is one of the most phenomenal leaders and players that I’ve ever coached,” Francom said. “She’s a great person, a great leader — honestly one of the greatest leaders I’ve been around.”
Nelson finished the game with 18 points and three assists.
As for Gustin, she dominated the paint, operating effectively for seemingly easy shots en route to a game-high 34 points and 16 rebounds.
“She makes them look easy. She does a lot of early work and a lot of times people don’t see it until she gets the ball,” Francom said of Gustin. “She’s a phenomenal talent and the best thing about her is she’s one of the hardest workers. She’s a natural talent, but that only takes you so far.”
Despite being down 13 entering the fourth quarter, Skyline refused to go down easy.
The Eagles put together a 7-0 run midway through the fourth to cut the Skyhawks lead to just 65-60. Leading the charge was Madison Grange, who finished with a team-high 21 points and Hannah Anderl, who added 18.
But from there Salem Hills buckled down, hit its free throws and came away with a big 73-65 win to advance to the semifinal round where it will take on Bountiful Friday night.