RICHFIELD — With just under a minute remaining in the quarterfinal contest between the Millard Eagles and the Layton Christian Academy Eagles, Layton Christian point guard Danyale Thomas deflected a pass intended for Millard star senior Kynlee Penney.
The northern Eagles came away with the ball and quickly looked to push it up the court, in hopes of cutting into a Millard lead.
With a commanding 12 point edge, No. 2 Millard could have easily conceded the turnover and counted down the seconds to victory.
Instead, junior Megan Wade stole the ball right back and converted a layup, giving the southern Eagles a 14 point lead.
Moments later, Millard walked away with a 51-36 victory and a berth in the semifinals.
That sequence proved a microcosm of sorts for the contest.
Simply put, Millard made more plays than Layton Christian.
They certainly needed too, as the Eagles didn’t play up to their normal standards.
“We didn’t play to the best of our game,” Millard head coach Melanie Bassett said. “We came out strong but then slowed down and lost it.”
After jumping out to a 16-2 first quarter lead, looking very much like the Eagles who boasted the third-best offense in 2A all season, Millard was outscored in the second period, looking completely out of sorts.
“For a lot of them it was nerves,” said Bassett. “Some of our seniors, we were counting on (to not let that happen to them) and they just weren’t in the game.”
The lone bright spot of the second quarter was Penney.
After scoring six points in the first quarter, she added an additional eight points in the second (she finished the game with a team-high 23 points).
“She brings a lot to our team,” said Bassett. “(Kynlee) is our go-to (player) when we need points. Sometimes if she is off it seems like it gets the team down a little bit. When she is on, she comes in and scores crucial points that we need.”
She did just that both in the second quarter and then again in the fourth quarter. After outplaying Layton Christian out of the break, Millard won an ugly third period 8-4, Millard reverted to its less than stellar play in the fourth.
It was there that Penney came through again, with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws that effectively squashed any hope of a Layton Christian comeback.
Add in the efforts of her sister Kobree, who scored six of her 12 points in the fourth quarter and was, along with Wade, part of a group of underclassman that stepped up for Millard, and the Eagles had just enough to advance to the next round of the postseason.
“I had to sub some of those juniors and sophomore in and luckily they were able to step it up,” said Bassett. “Luckily we were able to hold them.”
Up next for Millard is a semifinal bout, to be held Friday at 5:50 p.m. against the winner of the Kanab vs. Wasatch Academy quarterfinal.