TAYLORSVILLE — Sometimes even the best teams need a little kick in the rear to get it going.
The Layton girls basketball team entered the 5A state playoffs undefeated, nationally ranked and thought of as the favorite to win it all. Yet at the half, in their first-round playoff game on Tuesday, the Lancers saw themselves tied up with Taylorsville 21-21.
Enter typically mild-mannered Layton coach Van Price, who had a few words for his girls at the half.
“He kind of got on us and woke us up because we were not awake in the first half,” said Layton senior Hailey Bassett. “We were getting the jitters out and so in the second half, we woke up.”
Woke up in a big way.
The Lancers exploded to outscore the Warriors 20-3 in the third quarter, not allowing a field goal in the quarter, en route to a convincing 60-32 win. Bassett led the way with a game-high 19 points. Teammate Clara Wood added 16.
But offensive stats aside, it was Layton's defense that won the game, as Price's girls responded positively to his directive at the half.
“That we weren’t playing our game,” Price said when asked of the message imparted to his team at the half. “We looked tired, we looked lethargic. Our defense has always kind of been our forte and we really weren’t playing any.”
Price's message galvanized his girls while putting them in a bit of a sour mood.
“Well, our coach yelled at us and we were just furious,” Bassett said. “So we just wanted to get our anger out and we did.”
Most of that anger showed on the defensive end. While playing relatively passive defense in the first half, the Lancer defenders showed intense and on-point throughout the second half.
“Our defense — we needed to step it up and find our men,” Bassett said of the basic change set forth in the second half. “In the first half we were losing our men and they’re great shooters.”
Taylorsville finally did manage a second-half field goal midway through the fourth quarter, but it proved far too little too late.
Along with lockdown defense came a better effort on offense, not settling for outside shots while pushing the pace.
“We just need to settle in, play good defense and attack,” Price said. “We were settling for 3s, instead of attacking the basket and so that’s want we wanted to do, to pick up the pace a bit in the second half.”
With the brief bit of adversity, Layton advances to the quarterfinals where it will take on Pleasant Grove on Thursday, hopeful to have internalized the lessons learned against Taylorsville.
“We learned that we need to be ready to play,” Price said. “One game, you lose and you go home, so we got to start a bit faster than we did tonight.”