SALT LAKE CITY – The Fremont Silver Wolves look like heavy favorites for the 6A tournament.
But if head coach Lisa Dalebout knows anything about playoff basketball, she knows it is impossible to predict how players will respond to the unique pressures of the state tournament.
“I don’t know what we’re going to be,” she said of her young but extremely talented team. “I think they work as hard as any team I’ve ever had, which is interesting because they’re so talented. But they just work so hard. If they can just be themselves, they can be pretty special. But we’ll be playing some really tough older teams, and they’re really hungry.”
The Silver Wolves may be the defending state champions, but they are almost a completely different team. They start three sophomores, a freshman and a junior, and while they are incredibly young, they’ve played together for years and have great chemistry.
The undefeated Region 1 champions are led by last year’s 6A MVP, Emma Calvert, a sophomore center, who averaged 16.5 points per game this season.
They ranked second in scoring offense (59.6) and scoring defense (39.5), and they’ve beaten some of the top 6A teams that are expected to contend for a title this week when the games begin at Salt Lake Community College. Among those teams in the mix is second-ranked Copper Hills, a squad that Fremont beat in the preseason, but has all the makings of a state championship squad.
Like Fremont, Copper Hills won the region title with a perfect league record, and it ranks first in 6A in scoring offense (65.8 points per game). It's led by senior guard Breaunna Gillen, who averaged 18.3 points and 3.2 assists per game.
Bingham is ranked No. 3, and it earned the Region 4 title with a 7-1 record. It is led by senior guard Maggie McCord, who averaged 17.5 points per game. The Miners lost to Fremont in last year’s 6A championship game.
No. 4 Westlake will take on Syracuse Monday at 9:10 a.m. It tied with Lone Peak for second in Region 4, and it's led by senior guard Samantha Hester, who averaged 13.2 points and 3.1 steals per game.
Lone Peak tied for second in Region 4 with a 5-3 league record. The fifth-ranked Knights are led by senior guard Maddy Eaton, who averaged 19.7 points and 2.9 assists per game.
As Dalebout has scouted other teams, she said she’s been impressed with most of the teams that will compete in the playoffs.
“There is good basketball,” she said. “Everybody has a girl who can come off a ball screen and hurt you. … Everybody has shooters. It will be fun basketball to watch.”Comment on this story
She said better coaching has allowed the sport to keep some of the athletes who’d been leaving to play volleyball and soccer year-round.
“As I look around the state, I get excited,” she said. “Everyone does good stuff. It’s made me excited because we’re going to put good basketball on the floor. It really is anybody’s this year.”
Fremont will take on American Fork in Monday’s first round games, which begin at 9:10 a.m. Lone Peak faces Davis, while Westlake takes on Syracuse and Bingham plays Layton.
“There might be some cool upsets,” Dalebout said. “I just hope we’re not one of them.”