To have our backups compete against a team like that, a coach like that, is more valuable than practice. Practice is irreplaceable, but you need it in a game. —Corner Canyon head coach Jeramy Acker
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Corner Canyon demonstrated impressive versatility on the road in its Region 7 opener on Thursday night.
With second-leading scorer and leading-rebounder Jaeden Vaifanua sick at home with bronchitis, the Chargers played quicker than normal and also got key contributions from customary role players as they held off Brighton for a 62-54 win.
“We’re missing her, we hope she gets well soon. She felt like she was letting the team down, but you can’t control that stuff. She’s a big part of what we are, but we’re not a one-man team,” said Corner Canyon coach Jeramy Acker.
Sanderson finished with 12 points, well above her 3.7 ppg average coming into the game, but just as important was her commitment on the glass.
Despite the absence of its leading rebounder, Corner Canyon dominated the glass with 17 offensive rebounds 15 second-chance points as it improved to 13-1 on the season but most importantly 1-0 in Region 7.
Acker would’ve of course preferred to have Vaifanua on the court, but he said it’s never a bad thing to get reserves extended minutes in important varsity games because you never know what scenarios may pop up in the state tournament.
“This is perfect for us. This is a premier program, coach (Jim) Gresh does it right and he’s done it right for a lot of years,” said Acker. “To have our backups compete against a team like that, a coach like that, is more valuable than practice. Practice is irreplaceable, but you need it in a game.”
Corner Canyon never trailed on Thursday as Kemery Martin buried a couple of early 3-pointers en route to finishing with a game-high 23 points.
Martin said that Vaifanua’s absence was definitely noticeable on the defensive side of the ball.
“The defense was kind of lagging. We had to outhustle them and run them, because without Jaeden and us being smaller we just had to get up and get fast baskets,” she said.
Throughout most of the first half it looked like Corner Canyon might run away with the region win. It led 21-9 after the first quarter and then 31-18 late in the second quarter.
Brighton, however, ended the half on a 6-0 run though to whittle the lead to 31-24. It continued to chip away in the third and closed to within 35-33 on a layup by Sidney Kaufmann with 4:20 left in the quarter.
Kauffman finished the game with 14 points, while Emily Moss led the way with 15 points on five 3-pointers.
Brighton’s methodical climb back into the game was quickly erased. After watching its lead trimmed to 35-33, Corner Canyon scored on seven of nine possessions to finish the quarter as it stretched the lead back to 49-41.
The Chargers never led by less than five in the fourth quarter as it shot an impressive 52 percent from the field, which helped offset a rough 3-of-15 shooting night from the line.