SPANISH FORK Two games into the new season, the American Leadership Academy girls basketball team has experienced two opposite extremes on the results spectrum.
After a brutal loss in their season opener, the Eagles rebounded with a 55-19 win over Dugway on Tuesday. The team now hopes to take the lessons it has learned from the early games into the most difficult part of its preseason schedule and on to region play.
The Eagles were pleased with the progress they made from Game 1 to Game 2 and are hoping to put together a team capable of challenging in Region 14.
"We had a rough start," said American Leadership coach Anita Riggs. "It really gave the kids an eye-opening experience, and they worked really hard this week. The goal is to be one of the top teams in the region. We're going to have to earn every game that we win."
Riggs thinks the area where her team has shown the biggest early improvement is defense. Against Dugway, the Eagles forced 24 turnovers, leading to a lot of fast-break layups and easy points.
Dugway only scored six field goals the whole game. While some aggressive defense put the Mustangs on the free-throw line a lot, the pressure and turnovers kept them from finding any rhythm.
On offense, Cassandra Ascencio had a breakout game with 26 points, hitting shots from all over the court. Ascencio should be the Eagles' main scoring threat and also has good court vision
"The thing I like about Cassandra is she's a team player," said Riggs. "She doesn't just look for her shot. If there's somebody that's open with a better shot they get the ball."
ALA's main strength is its quickness on the perimeter. They also have some quality size in the post.
Vanessa Laussen is an imposing figure in the paint and has a nice short-range shooting touch.
"Vanessa is a hard worker," said Riggs. "She knows how to be physical. We do have big, tall girls."
Another key player for the Eagles is sophomore point guard Megan Riggs. The team will count on her to run the offense and create plays with the first pass.
Accomplishing this year's goals definitely won't be easy. American Leadership has teams like Juab and North Summit to worry about. The Eagles finished in third-place last year and eventually lost their first consolation game after a first-round tournament win.
In order to match or surpass that performance, the team believes it will have to keep playing good defense relying on the pressure and turnovers to get everything else going.
"We can always improve on defense and rebounding," said Riggs.