We started well and wanted to finish. I am just overwhelmed with happiness. —Lani Taliauli
TAYLORSVILLE — East High School will be adding another keepsake next week to its already-crowded trophy case.
The school opened in 1913, but this will be the first for girls basketball. Saturday morning, the Leopards played one of their best halves of the season and dismantled Timpview 68-48 in the 5A state championship game at Salt Lake Community College.
Margarita Satini scored 17 points, Lealani Falatea and Lani Taliauli had 12 and Deserae Falatea 11 and coach Olosaa Solovi proudly joined his team carrying the trophy around the gym in just his second season.
“This team never made any excuses,” said Solovi, who joined the girls program to help coach his daughter last year after serving as an assistant football coach. “We do it the same way as in football. There is no substitute for hard work. They bought in.”
The Leopards (23-2) did it from the start. After a tough semifinal victory over rival Highland Friday, East jumped on Timpview immediately, took a 7-0 lead, then played great defense and used some deadly three-point shooting to build the margin.
“It was our goal all year to win state,” said Taliauli. “We started well and wanted to finish. I am just overwhelmed with happiness. That was probably the best (half) we’ve played all year.”
Taliauli played a big part. She grabbed five rebounds and had three blocked shots and added to her repertoire with a pair of baskets from long range.
“She can shoot it from out there,” said Solovi. “This whole team is very talented. They just needed to go out and show it.”
The Leopards did it all year. They reached the state tournament in 2017 for the first time in nine years, and Solovi said they worked hard in the offseason. East started this season with a convincing win over 5A power Riverton and followed it with more impressive victories, including a 22-point win over Bingham, three consecutive performances at a pre-Christmas tournament in Las Vegas, and the Leopards tied Skyline for the Region 6 crown.
“They came out on fire and with a lot energy,” said Timpview coach Aimee Dorais. “You can combat one of those, but to try to stop both is a tall order.”
Timpview (20-5) also came into the title game with an impressive resume, including a 10-game winning streak, but had few answers. Shalyn Fano and Ella Pope topped the Thunderbirds with 16 points each.
Fano led a brief third-quarter rally that got Timpview within 46-32, but East recovered when Satini scored on a layup, Precious Faamausili added a free throw, and Taliauli nailed a three-pointer and then followed with a nice pass to Faamausili for an easy basket.
Quickly, the margin reached 20 points and East was never threatened again, despite having to deal with some foul troubles.
“We had a big lead against Highland, so that helped us deal with that here,” said Solovi.
“We started well, and we wanted to finish,” added Taliauli.
Deseret News All-Tournament Team
MVP — Margarita Satini, East
Lani Taliauli, East
Shalyn Fano, Timpview
Ella Pope, Timpview
Madison Grange, Skyline
Mercedes Staples, Viewmont
Bruce Smith grew up in Boise, Idaho, and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high-school sports articles for the Deseret News.