Brittney Martin and Makenlee Williams know how it feels to hold that state championship trophy. But the also know what it feels like to lose a perfect season in the state title game.
After winning the state championship in 2010 with a perfect 25-0 season, Syracuse saw a 48-game win streak end with a loss to Alta last February in the 5A state title game.
Interestingly, it is last year's loss that fueled the two seniors in the off-season.
"The season did not end how we wanted it to end," said Syracuse head coach Rob Reisbeck. "It really motivated Britt and Makenlee in the off-season to elevate their game. They came into this year focused and ready to go."
More than just new skills or a renewed hunger, Williams, who will play at Utah State, and Martin, who will play at Oklahoma State, are providing critical leadership.
"They're really getting the other kids ready to go and focused," he said. "They don't want this year to end like last year, and so far, they keep getting better with each game."
Martin, the state's reigning Ms. Basketball, is used to the glare of the spotlight.
"She's always been pretty even keel," said Reisbeck. "In fact, if she could, she would fly under the radar and not having anything to do with all that's being said about her. She wants to help the team; assists are more important than points."
Despite being the favorite, Reisbeck said his squad has plenty of competition.
"I think it's more open," he said. "There are definitely more teams that have a chance to be really good this year."
Martin is leading the Titans with 20.17 points per game, while Williams is adding 19.2 points per game. Abby Call and Courtney Starks pitch in with 9.6 and 8.3 points per game.
Another Region 1 team, the Layton Lancers have climbed all the way to No. 2 in the rankings after beating Bingham in a thriller last week. Layton is now 9-0, but the Region 1 race promises to be one of the toughest.
Layton is led by Maddi Smith, who is averaging 11.5 points per game, and Amber Daly, who is averaging 9.8 points per game.
Weber is led by Erin Reichle, who averages 10.8 points and Erica Olpin, who averages nearly 10 points per game.
Davis has also worked its way into the top five behind the play of Courrtney Hurst, who averages 11.2 points per game, and Jessica Richardson, who averages nearly eight points per game.
Fremont was voted into the top five in the pre-season but has struggled in the first month of the season with a 3-7 record. That means very little to the other Region 1 coaches.
"Our region top to bottom is tough," said Reisbeck.
Bingham's only loss is last week's 61-59 loss to Layton. The Miners have a talented team but also play in an extremely competitive region.
The Miners are led by Summer Yack, who is averaging 14.8 points, and Jillian Powell, who is averaging nearly 10 points per game. The Miners strength is the number of players who can score and the bench plays almost as well as the starters.
Riverton promises to be tough again this season and both Lone Peak and American Fork has made appearances in the top five. They could all contend for the 5A title.
The Silverwolves are led by Whitney Saunders, who is averaging 11.3 points, Morganne Campbell and Lauren Bond, both of whom average 6.5 points. Like Bingham, the Silverwolves have a dozen players who can have a big offensive night and they are one of the state's best defensive squads.
The Knights are led by Cami Simons, who averages 11.1 points per game. The Cavemen have just one senior, but a great junior class will make them tough.. The team is led by Cassidy Fraughton, who averages 14.8 points, and Ashley Baugh, who adds 11.9 points.
The defending 5A champion Alta Hawks lost a lot of its core to graduation, but they return the reigning 5A MVP in Makenzi Morrison. The future BYU Cougar is one of the state's most prolific scorers, averaging 22 points per game. Sophmore Chloe Ferre adds 8.2 points per game and Abbie Simons chips in 8.
Brighton could give Alta some competition, but the title should be between those two squads, despite a lot of improvement in some of the other Region 3 programs.
In Region 2, Kearns was the pre-season favorite, in large part because future BYU Cougar Micaelee Orton is healthy and averaging 17.1 points per game. But a tough pre-season has the Cougars at 5-5 heading into region play.
The Taylorsville Warriors are playing well behind Whitney Mitchell, who is averaging nearly 16 points per game.
5A region projections
Note: Projections were picked by Deseret News staff, with input from coaches.
3. West Jordan
6. Copper Hills
2. Lone Peak
3. American Fork
6. Pleasant Grove
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