OREM To any program stuck in a rebuilding year: Have hope. Keep the faith. Believe.
After graduating five of their top six players from a state finals team that pretty much ran six deep and not bringing in much new blood, this team was supposed to be mired in a down season. But they're now 2-1 after coming on with a strong second half and taking down a powerful Mountain Crest team 46-41.
"Can we just end the season now?" joked Orem coach Ross Reed after his team made a huge comeback in the final 12 minutes.
The Mustangs came out huge, eventually securing a 13-4 lead in the first quarter, leaving the Tigers looking like the team of junior varsity players most of them were last year.
Kamile Lisonbee, the highly touted 6-foot-7 shot-blocking Mustang center, was stuffing shots from all over the court as the Tigers couldn't seem to get anything into the air, let alone near the hoop.
Orem was able to chop it a little by the end of the first and entered the second quarter with a 15-8 deficit. But that was when Virginia Voeks went on her first scoring spree, bringing the Tigers back and knotting things up at 17. Voeks finished with 14 points, including four quick ones in the middle of the second.
"Virginia had a great night. She made some shots, saw some things and made things happen," said Reed of the guard he says plays hard and aggressive at all times.
But though they entered halftime down only 19-17, the Tigers didn't seem interested in taking back the lead early in the third as they allowed the Mustangs to outscore them 10-2 to open the second half. Then they got defensive, just like they did in the second quarter.
Orem went on a seven-point run and outscored Mountain Crest 27-12 in the final 12 minutes as at times they surprised even themselves.
After tying things up five times and never managing to take the lead, the Tigers finally grabbed hold of a slim margin when Kaitlyn Thomas put up a runner in the lane and added a free throw to the three-point play. But then came the play that made the entire Orem bench jump up and give each other high fives.
Orem center Emily Julian, looking a little short at 6-foot-2 next to Lisonbee, took the ball in her left hand, faked Lisonbee out and spun around her, laying the ball up nice and soft behind the tall center.
"I learned it from Neb," Julian said after the game, talking about Orem assistant coach Jamie Nebeker. She then went on to say how much the move surprised even her because of how difficult it was to do anything against Lisonbee.
"She definitely eats her Wheaties," added Julian with a laugh.
"We got the big shots and rebounds when we needed to. This is a big win for these kids this season. We found out we can play with these guys," added Reed, though both coaches lamented the free throw shooting as the Tigers finished with 6-16 from the stripe, while Mountain Crest was even worse at 2-8.Brianne Larsen added 11 for Orem, and three players finished with six, including Regan Bailey, Aly Tucker and Julian. Lisonbee had 11 for the Mustangs, Amanda Jensen finished with nine, including a pair of treys, and Alex Hansen and Heather Duncan added eight a piece.