TAYLORSVILLE — Finau Tonga could feel the panic rising in her chest.

Every year she and her Taylorsville teammates fight to make the 6A state basketball tournament, only to lose in the first round. This year, they vowed, would be different for the No. 2-seeded Warriors.

“There’s always that mindset, ‘I don’t want to play catch up,'” said the senior forward after she and her teammates rallied from a first-quarter deficit to Hillcrest and earned a 56-38 win. “But our team pulled through at the end.”

Players and head coach Reggie Jewkes said the 9:30 a.m. start was as much of a challenge as anything the Huskies threw at them Monday morning at Salt Lake Community College.

“Morning games are not our games,” laughed Tonga, who led the team with 14 points and 13 rebounds. “We all came together as a team, and our shots started going in and our passes were coming through.”

Jewkes said coaches knew the early game time might be an issue.

“We know our Saturday morning practices at nine, and they’re just rough,” the coach said. “It takes them forever to get going. And I worried about that, so the last couple of practices we’ve had were early, to try and get them (used to) that.”

But when Hillcrest jumped out to a 12-9 first-quarter lead, Lee decided the way to cure the sluggish start was to ask more of her players.

“They were actually more awake than I thought they’d be,” Jewkes said, laughing. “But yeah, it was a slow start, and so I thought, you know, to break this open, I’ve got to press. I’ve got to wake them up.”

It worked as the Warriors outscored the Huskies 22-5 in the second quarter, and then cruised to a decisive win. They will take on second-ranked Bingham in the tournament’s quarterfinals on Wednesday.

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Hillcrest was led by Brinlee McRae, who scored nine points and earned 10 rebounds, while Nicole Wilson added nine points and Anna Wright scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Senior Aubrey Yorgason said the team’s challenge, in addition to an early tipoff, was to play their game, no matter what the opposing team offered.

“I think everyone was just nervous,” Yorgason said. “Once we finally realized that we just needed to play the way we play, everyone went in and played their hearts out.”

Ella Huntington came off the bench and sparked the team both offensively and defensively. She finished with 12 points, while Yorgason added 12 points, as well.