ROY – As she walked into the locker room with her Roy High teammates, Kay Poppell clutched every mistake she’d made.
But in order for the Royals to win their fifth straight while handing Woods Cross its first region loss, Poppell had to do something that comes very difficult to her.
“For me, it was my teammates that just brought me up, they took me in and said, ‘You know, forget those mistakes and just do you,’” she said after the Royals used a big second half to defeat region rival Woods Cross 55-47. “I have a really hard time forgetting mistakes and putting things behind me. So I think them just encouraging me, putting their faith in me, it really helped me out.”
Poppell said the team was a bit nervous, and that led to allowing Woods Cross to play its brand of basketball — fast and frenetic.
Head coach Carolyn DeHoff said they’d tried to prepare the Royals for the Wildcats, but there are some things that have to be experienced to be understood.
“We can’t simulate their length and their speed,” DeHoff said. “We can only show it on film, and that’s never a true indicator. We’re also a team that really has to feel out that other team in the first half, so once we got a feel for what the game was going to be like, the players could then settle down and play their game.”
The teams were tied 21-21 at halftime, and while senior center Josie Williams was the target of the Wildcat defense, she still scored 13 of her 19 points in the first half.
“Well, my teammates Brittney Hatch, Kay (Poppell), Laura Hadley, Sarah (Shulz), and really anyone who stepped on the floor, they were the difference,” said Williams, who also had four blocked shots. “Woods Cross was shutting me down, and they were physical.”
She said most opponents focus their defensive efforts on her, for good reason as the team’s offense runs through her. “But that’s not the truth,” she said laughing. “And teams better realize that because if they shut me down, there are four other (players) who are going to score.”
DeHoff said the key to the team’s win was its fan support, senior leadership and its defensive effort.
“This group has something special and they’re starting to show what we’ve been practicing for three years,” she said of the squad loaded with nine seniors. “The other thing is that we count kills, and kills are three consecutive defensive stops. We have to average six, we believe, to beat a team of this quality. We had nine in the whole game tonight.”
She also reminded her team that despite its own four-game win streak, which extends to five with Friday’s victory, region games are going to be tougher — and closer. The Royals' confidence was palpable in the second half, and they never trailed once they took the lead on a bucket by Williams just 14 seconds into the third quarter.
“Our team really knows how to step up and finish a game,” Poppell said. “I definitely see us going far, just the way we can turn around. We went into the locker room defeated, and we picked it up and took the game back.”