Editor's note: DeseretNews.com will be livestreaming the entire tournament.
In the regular season, Salem Hills and Mountain View — two of the best girls basketball teams in the 4A classification — split their regular season series. The Skyhawks' only regular-season defeat this season was a 50-40 loss to the Bruins on Jan. 9. Salem Hills pulled even in the season series with a 49-47 victory over Mountain View on Feb. 2.
With the two teams on opposite sides of the brackets, the next time these schools face each other would be in the championship, if both teams advance. Both schools certainly have the firepower to go far in the tournament. The Bruins average 68.5 points per game, best in 4A, and are outscoring opponents by an average of 24.4 points per game. The Skyhawks have the second-best offense in 4A, scoring 60.9 points per game and outscoring opponents by an average of 15.3 points per game.
“Salem Hills, they’re a really good team, it’s been a lot of fun when we got to play them the two times,” Mountain View head coach Alexis Kaufusi said.
Both teams are led by prolific scorers. For Mountain View, senior guard Tahlia White leads the charge, scoring 24.2 points per game, while senior guard Sam Eddy adds 12.4 points per game. For Salem Hills, senior forward Lauren Gustin scores 28.8 points per game, while senior guard Dixie Lainhart contributes 10.9 points per game.
The two teams both lost in the first round of last season’s tournament — Mountain View fell to East, while Salem Hills lost to Skyline — so both teams enter the 2018 4A tournament with something to prove.
“They’re pretty excited. After we kind of had the letdown last season, I know the girls are excited to be back in the state tournament and really prove ourselves because we definitely fell a little shorter than we had planned last year,” Kaufusi said.
This season, the first round of the 4A tournament will be held at the school of the higher-ranked seed, so Salem Hills will host Tooele and Mountain View will host Juan Diego. Then, the schools take a break until Mar. 1, then the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will be hosted at Utah Valley University.
“To win the state tournament, you have to be really mentality tough, definitely more mental than physical, I think, especially with the new setup this year, where rather than playing a game or two and having a break in between, we play the game and then we have a whole week, and then we play three in a row. I think it will come down to who’s the most mentally tough,” Kaufusi said.
Kaufusi says that she tries to stick to the same routine as she did in the regular season for the state tournament.
“This year, before all the big games, we just kind of do our same thing that we always do, same routine,” Kaufusi said. “The tournament, it’s special and it’s a big deal that we’re going, but we try not to make it too big of a deal, just so we can stay in our same groove and not get too many pre-tournament jitters.”
Logan, Cedar and Bonneville are also No. 1 seeds in the 4A tournament. Logan has multiple scoring options, with Amber Kartchner, Mia Marin and Tori Craner each scoring 11 points per game. Cedar’s defense is formidable, second in 4A. The Redmen are led by Japrix Weaver’s 13.2 points per game. Rounding out the favorites is Bonneville, which is led by Talia Afuvai’s 11.4 points per game.