TAYLORSVILLE — The semifinal clash of 5A’s two undefeated titans lived up to the hype in an overtime thriller that featured big plays, strange situations and championship-worthy efforts by both teams.
“I’m totally drained,” said Layton head coach Van Price after Layton edged Copper Hills 46-44. “I’m elated that we’re in the finals, but I’m emotionally drained. That was a hard game, a very hard game. And it’s typical of two 23-0 teams. That’s the kind of game you’d want. It could have gone either way.”
The game did not have a promising start.
Layton jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and led 15-3 with 2:30 to play in the first quarter. By the end of the first quarter, Layton led 17-8.
In the second quarter, however, the Grizzlies clawed their way back into the game thanks to Ashley Hodge’s rebounding and Shirsten Wissinger’s offense and leadership. Wissinger hit a 3-pointer to open the quarter, and then Hodge led the defense by making it difficult for Layton to get any second-chance points. Mikelle Magalogo was also key defensively and she finished the quarter with a jumper off a Hodge rebound and the game was nearly even at halftime with Layton owning a 23-22 edge heading to the locker rooms.
Unfortunately, foul trouble hamstrung both teams just a few minutes into the third quarter. Layton’s leading scorer and rebounder Hailey Bassett was whistled for her third foul with 3:46 to play in the third quarter. Coaches immediately sent a substitute to check in, but while Olivia James sat waiting for a dead ball, Bassett was called for her fourth foul with the game tied at 27.
Wissinger hit another three on the next play, and then was called for her fourth foul, forcing her to go to the bench with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
While the teams battled, it was Wood who kept Layton in the game while Bassett waiting for her coach’s OK to return.
“We were scared, to be honest,” said Wood, who finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three steals. “She’s the role player on our team. We knew we had to step it up and do it without her.” Bassett said she was devastated.
“I was pretty sad,” said Bassett, who finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. “I’m so proud of my team for stepping up and finishing this game. One of our post players, Olivia James, stepped up big time. I’m very proud of her. I’m proud of my whole team.”
Wissinger fouled out with eight seconds remaining in regulation on an offensive foul as she backed to the basket for what could have been a game-winning shot. Instead, the teams headed to overtime 38-38, and Copper Hills was without its best player.
This is when an odd situation occurred.
Officials lined the players up for a jump ball the reverse of how they should have been lined up. So when Layton won the tip (Bassett to Wood), they began to set up their offense headed to Copper Hills’ basket, with the Grizzlies defending.
Then Wood heard her coaches screaming that they were going the wrong way.
“I thought we were going the other way too,” Wood said. “Until I saw my coaches, and they were like, ‘No, go the other way!’ I ran down the court. I was kind of scared.”
They all were. But they trusted their coaches and point guard Sunnie Martinez passed the ball to a streaking Wood for a layup.
“That’s the difference maker right there,” Price said. “That helped us a lot.” In addition to Wood’s efforts, especially when Bassett was on the bench, Livia Borges was critical defensively, and she hit one of two free throws at the end of the overtime so that at least the Lancers had a two-point lead.
Borges was a bit sluggish in the middle of the game, but that was understandable after Price explained why.
“She’s a club soccer player,” he said. “She flew to Arizona after our game yesterday, and played a game this morning and then flew back.”
She arrived in Salt Lake City about 3:30 p.m. Friday, went home and then to the school to catch the bus to Salt Lake Community College.
Borges said she felt a bit worn out after playing in Arizona in 80-degree weather.
“But then I thought, ‘It’s literally eight more minutes of my life, and we go to a championship game; I can sacrifice eight more minutes’,” said Borges, who scored eight points, grabbed six rebounds, had four assists, two blocked shots and five steals. “I felt bad (about being tired). It was my fault; I got mental, got in my head. My team was positive and stayed with me. They helped pick me up.”
Price said coaches were aware they’d be working with her to keep commitments to both sports.
“She’s an awesome kid,” he said. “We’d take her any day. (What she did at the game’s end) is what she’s done all year. She’s such an integral part of the team. She has extra energy, speed, this will that never ends, and just the will to succeed.”
Copper Hills was understandably upset by the way the overtime started, but UHSAA officials said a protest would have had to occur during the game for it to be considered.
Wissinger finished with a game-high 22 points, while Mikelle Magalogo, added seven points, including a 3-point shot with 1:04 to play in overtime that put the game within reach for the Grizzlies.
When asked how they would celebrate their victory, Borges answered quickest, “Sleep.”
Which they’ll need if they expect to keep up with third-ranked Sky View in Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship match-up.
“They’re awesome,” Bassett said. To which, Wood added, “It will definitely be a good game.”