Emily is one of those players you just love to have. She is the one who will stay after practice. She does the little things. —Tooele head coach Randy Goss, on Emily Webber
DRAPER — If the 2018 season has illustrated anything so far it is that girls high school basketball in the state is chock full of truly game-changing talents. Even so, the player that can control the game on both ends of the floor is a rare breed indeed.
If Thursday night’s Region 11 matchup between the Tooele Buffaloes and Juan Diego Soaring Eagle was any indication, Tooele senior Emily Webber is that kind of player.
Led by Webber, who scored a game-high 10 points, the Buffaloes defeated the Soaring Eagle 35-23 at Juan Diego Catholic High School. The victory marked the fourth triumph in a row for Tooele (9-4, 5-0) and doubled as the school’s fifth region victory.
Webber’s impact on the result was felt immediately and often, in almost every aspect of the game.
On the offensive end, the center scored four of the Buffaloes eight first-quarter points. On defense, her active hands led to deflection after deflection, plays that helped limit the Soaring Eagle (7-9, 3-3) to just two points in the opening period.
“Emily is one of those players you just love to have,” Tooele head coach Randy Goss said. “She is the one who will stay after practice. She does the little things.”
Her sister Abby Webber had a noticeable impact on the defensive end as well in the first quarter and the pair of Webbers made it almost impossible for the Soaring Eagle to find any purchase in the paint, a fact that resulted in numerous wasted offensive possessions.
It wasn’t until the second quarter that the hosts began to figure out a way around Tooele’s twin towers.
Led by senior Eva Tavake, who scored four points in the game, Juan Diego began to utilize a more physical and aggressive approach. As a result, the second period was much more competitive, with Tooele barely winning the period by a score of 12-10.
The physical nature of the game resulted in more than a few freebies for the Buffaloes, Tooele attempted 11 free throws in the second quarter alone and 24 in the game, which they didn’t always take advantage of. Nonetheless, Goss was pleased with the response by the Buffaloes.
“With the number of fouls, it was a physical game,” said Goss. “I thought our girls did really well with how they handled it.”
That response didn’t come until the fourth quarter, however, as the Soaring Eagle emerged from halftime, trailing by eight, engaged and raring to go.
When coupled with a full court press that Tooele seemed unable to break, that attitude enabled Juan Diego to completely control the third period.
The host’s pulled as close as three points with a few minutes remaining in the quarter, at which point Tooele seemed primed to collapse.
A key bucket by Whitney Murray halted the Soaring Eagle charge, however, and the Buffaloes entered the fourth quarter with a five-point advantage.
It was in the fourth period that Webber truly made her mark. She kicked off the scoring for Tooele with a sideline jumper, after which she waved at her bench and fans almost as if to say goodbye to the Soaring Eagle.
While she didn’t score again in the period, her play and positioning broke the Juan Diego full court press throughout the period, enabling Tooele to tally 11 fourth-quarter points.
“(Early on) Emily was going up too far on the sideline. Once we had her breaking to the middle (of the court) it was open on the weak side and (the girls) finally started reading that.”
Webber also led the way defensively for the Buffaloes, who held the Soaring Eagle scoreless for the first six minutes of the quarter.
“It was the defensive end that saved us,” said Goss. “Up to that point (in the game), we really hadn’t played the defense we usually play. We usually fly to the ball with our hands up and are moving all the time. We finally did that.”
“I can’t say enough about Emily,” Goss continued. “She is a leader out there and has been fabulous to work with these past two years. She does good for us.”