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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Bingham's Shanyce Makuei shoots in a 6A first-round girls basketball game at Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
I just pretended we were back at Bingham making free throws. Coach always tells us free throws will make or break us. —Bingham's Aubrey Yorgason

By all accounts, Tuesday’s 6A opening-round game between Bingham and Taylorsville looked like a yawner. Region 4 champ Bingham entered the state tournament with a 16-6 record while Taylorsville was 5-16, and the No. 3 seed coming out of Region 3.

Close throughout, Taylorsville tied it at 42-42 on an Aubrey Yorgason basket with 35.9 seconds remaining. The Warriors fouled Bingham’s Journey Tupea and the senior calmly drained two free throws as the Miners held on for a 46-42 win.

“I just pretended we were back at Bingham making free throws,” Yorgason said. “Coach always tells us free throws will make or break us.”

While Bingham hit 10-18 from the charity stripe, Taylorsville’s 6-foot-2 junior center, Finau Tonga, shut down everything the Miners tried to do inside. Tonga finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and four authoritative blocked shots. Yorgason led Taylorsville in scoring with 17 points as the Warriors played as hard as they could.

“I wish we could get the ball into her more (Tonga), but kudos to Bingham’s pressure. They put the pressure on our guards and we had a hard time getting her the ball,” Taylorsville coach Jodi Lee said.

Despite the 5-16 record and fourth-place finish in Region 3, Bingham coach Charron Mason figured the Warriors would give her team a fight.

“They played so hard and we knew that they would,” Mason said. “They are in a tough region, and even as a four seed we knew this game was going to be hard.”

The Bingham defense showed early, forcing several turnovers on the cautious Warriors. Baskets from Shanyce Makuei, a 3-pointer from Maggie McCord and back-to-back 3-pointers from Madison Jones and Tupea gave Bingham an 11-6 lead after one quarter.

The Miners took their biggest lead of the game at 13-6 before Taylorsville clawed back. Morgan Toluono scored, Jayah Bean made a free throw, and a basket from Yorgason cut into the lead. Bean added a 12-footer and Tivya Passey a 10-foot baseline floater as the Warriors trailed 20-17 at halftime.

What had been a quiet game for McCord, Bingham’s leading scorer, turned into a third-quarter track meet as McCord got loose in transition, scoring eight of her 16 points and pushing Bingham’s lead to 35-29 after three quarters.

“She just hustles, she just keeps going and keeps running and keeps hustling and gets out on the break if we need her to,” Mason said.

But Bingham just couldn’t put away the feisty Warriors.

Tonga scored inside, Toluono drained a 3-pointer and Isabella Rivera hit a 15-footer. Bean’s offensive rebound and put-back cut the lead to 42-40 at the 1:40 mark. After Yorgason tied it, the Miners closed out a tougher than expected Taylorsville squad by making 4-4 free throws.

“I think we are a better team than most people think we are,” Lee said. “We just come up short some times. We gave up way too many offensive rebounds right down at the end there, but I’m pretty darn proud of what we did today.”

McCord was the only Bingham player to tally double figures. Jaycee Lichtie finished with nine points while Tupea added seven. McCord led the Miners in rebounding with seven.

The Bingham coach talked about getting through a tough opponent in what looks to be an extremely evenly matched 6A field.

“Everybody knows there is not one clear seed that is going to dominate everything,” Mason said. “Everything is close and we know we are going to have to bring our best game every time we step on the court.”