We just know if we play our game that we all make shots and we trust each other. So no one is really carrying the weight or the burden, we’re just going out there to fight together. —Timpview's Ella Pope
TAYLORSVILLE — Knowing just how much to manage your team during games can be a tricky process for any coach, although Timpview coach Aimee Dorais seemed to have it down pat in her team's 56-49 win over Skyline in the 5A state semifinals on Friday.
Dorais opted to let her team play through a furious run by the Eagles in the third quarter, yet opted to change things up after a timeout late in the fourth to secure the win. Both moves worked like charms, although Dorais was quick to deflect any praise in postgame interviews.
“My job’s easy. I’m just 5-foot-4. I can hide on the sidelines. They’re the ones who have to go out and handle the real athletes,” Dorais said.
It would be easy to assign the necessity of a timeout midway through the third quarter, as Skyline came out with renewed focus and fervor, cutting Timpview's 25-17 lead at the half to 27-26 with four minutes left in the third quarter. But Dorais opted to let her team play through Skyline's run, confident in her players.
“In little runs, they understand the game of basketball — they get it," Dorais said. "They get how good of a team Skyline is. We talked about it. Skyline is going to make runs, but (we needed) to continue to play our style of basketball, and they were super-focused in practice yesterday.”
Timpview's Jazzy Espinoza responded to the run by hitting a 3-pointer, pushing the lead to 30-26. Taylor Ross then responded with another 3-pointer, with Ella Pope finishing off the quarter with a basket at the buzzer. The ending result was maintaining the same eight-point lead held at the half, leading 40-32 entering the game's final eight minutes.
“We all know when we use each other, as a team, we can keep our composure,” Pope said. “We just know if we play our game that we all make shots and we trust each other. So no one is really carrying the weight or the burden, we’re just going out there to fight together.”
As mentioned, Dorais did opt for a timeout late, which worked to all but put the game away.
Clinging to a 46-42 lead with 3:08 remaining, Timpview's coach decided to spread the floor — trusting in the semi-delay tactic to end with at least some critical time run off the clock, or better, a lay-up. Both occurred as the T-Birds ran a full minute and three seconds off the clock, with Shalyn Fano ending the possession with an uncontested lay-up.
“We’re not taking our foot off the gas quite yet, but we’re changing the way we’re going to go score,” Dorais said of what she told her players in the timeout. “I still told them to attack. I still told them to go get a lay-up, but if we eat 30 seconds and get a turnover, that’s okay. But it’s going to finish with a lay-up if you take care of the basketball.”
For the game Fano ended with 12 points and nine rebounds, lending a big emotional spark to her team, while helping hold Skyline's Cameron Mooney to just seven points.
“Shalyn Fano is a monster,” Dorais said. “The things I asked her to do today — to be able to be assigned the toughest defensive assignment in the entire game, and then to still get (baskets) on the other side, that just shows her composure, her mental toughness and her physical toughness.”
Dorais had similar praise for Pope, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.
“Ella is the emotional spearhead,” Dorais said. “When things get tough, Ella gets tougher. When things get quiet, Ella gets louder, and without Ella Pope and her physical presence, we wouldn’t be the team that we are. But without her leadership presence, we’d be drastically different, as well.”
With the win Timpview advances to the 5A championship game against East on Saturday.