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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Layton's Esther Bassett (12) and Sunnie Martinez (1) celebrate the win over Sky View in the 5A high school girls basketball championship in Taylorsville Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Layton won 73-65.
This is an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. —Hailey Bassett

TAYLORSVILLE — If it looked like Hailey Bassett was inspired as she led Layton to a 5A title with the best basketball game of her career in the biggest game of her life, it’s because she was.

“I love my team,” she said after the top-ranked, undefeated Lancers earned the 5A title with a 73-65 win over Sky View. “I love my coaches, and I love my friends and family, so I wanted to win for them. But most of all this means a lot for my grandpa (Dave Milius). He recently passed away, and I wanted to get it for him.”

For the past two games, the Utah State-bound senior said she felt a little more driven, a little more focused because she was so close to keeping a commitment she made as a freshman. That’s when Bassett’s grandfather, who was an assistant coach for her junior high team, suffered a heart attack during a game and passed away in January of 2013.

“I’ve always wanted to win this for him,” she said after scoring a career-high 35 points in the win. “That’s what got me kind of emotional.” That emotion followed a torrent of game-winning plays in which Bassett almost single-handedly willed the Lancers to a win.

“Hailey carried us on her shoulders,” said Layton head coach Van Price. “She would not be stopped. I think she’s the big reason (the team weathered the tough battle). She just took it on herself to make sure we didn’t lose this game.”

Bassett was the most dominant force on the court most of the game. But the final four minutes belonged completely to her.

With a one-point lead and 4:22 left in the game, she scored 13 straight points for the Lancers as they built a double-digit lead. That’s when the reality of what she’d earned hit her and brought her to tears.

“When I saw that we were going to win, when we had a 10-point lead,” she said, “I got so emotional. I was like, ‘We did it. This is an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.’”

The Lancers did what they’ve done too many times this season, as they opened the game with a quick start and nine unanswered points. Sky View’s coach Vanessa Hall called a timeout, and the Bobcats went back onto the floor and immediately scored.

Behind the defense of Kelsey Chapman , who finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals, and offense of Kaylee Carlsen, who scored a team-high 20 points and had four steals, Sky View chipped away at the lead in the next two quarters.

“I’m so proud of them,” said Sky View head coach Vanessa Hall. “They fought. They didn’t give up. We had a great run, and it’s unfortunate that we ended this way. But it was a great season, they’re a great group of girls.”

The way the Bobcats battled until the final buzzer proved the girls’ mettle.

“It shows what kind of team they are,” she said, battling her own tears. “They just fight. They don’t give up.”

Forward Hunter Krebs was critical in that comeback, and her absence was felt most keenly when she had to go to the bench in foul trouble in the third quarter. She finished with 13 points and six rebounds.

As the fourth quarter began, Layton owned a 50-48 lead. Missed foul shots looked like they might doom the Lancers until the Bobcats fouled Bassett. She was 9-of-12 for the Lancers, who’ve made a habit of playing more close games than they needed to.

“That’s just how we are,” Price said smiling. “We do what we can, as quick as we can to get that lead, and then you get a little winded, and you let the other team back in (the game). Then you have to just grind it out.”

He praised his younger players, specifically Kim Taylor, Olivia James and Ashlyn Campbell, who came in when the starters needed rest or were hamstrung with foul trouble and helped the Lancers maintain, and sometimes stretch their advantage.

“The did awesome,” he said, “I’m just so proud of the girls.” Clara Wood, Livia Borges and Sunnie Martinez all came up with key plays at critical moments. Wood finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while Martinez finished with six points and four assists.

Borges scored four points, grabbed six rebounds and had a handful of steals, despite foul trouble stealing some of her time on the floor.

They praised Bassett, especially for her fourth-quarter effort.

“She did outstanding,” Wood said with a tearful smile. “The girl is amazing.”

Borges said the team might have started the celebration a little too soon.

“I think we kidn of got a little excited, and then once they started coming back, it was like, ‘Okay, guys, we’re not done. Every second counts, every possession counts. We just have to relax and play our game.’” She said the game was taxing mentally, physical and emotionally. Her teammates agreed. Wood said she gathered her teammates to try and keep them positive when the game seemed to be slipping away.

“I had to get my team together,” she said. “They were getting down. I just reminded them that we’ve been working for this our whole lives. To give up now, it doesn’t make sense.” Martinez said the team’s grit comes from experience.

“I think we’re so mentally tough because we have so many seniors,” she said. “It’s become kind of a routine, unfortunately. We like to make it interesting.” Still, Bassett said when it mattered most, they knew they could count on each other to give everything they had in pursuit of the goal they’ve dreamed about since they were in elementary school.

“We just come together as one,” said Bassett, who also had 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. “We’re so close, and that really helps when you trust your teammates. I’m beyond proud of my teammates. They’re amazing.”

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

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