TAYLORSVILLE – Whether it’s the hopes of her teammates or the expectations of opponents, Lavender Briggs doesn’t shy away from pressure.
“In some ways (I feel it),” the senior said after helping Provo to a 60-41 win over Jordan in the first round of the 5A state girls basketball tournament Tuesday at Salt Lake Community College. “I just know that I have to show up. I can’t really take a break. … I have to focus as I set the tone, or at least I try.”
Even being the focal point of the Beetdiggers defensive effort, Briggs managed to score 24 points to lead her team to the 5A quarterfinals.
Briggs finished with 24 points, while Lia Kaufusi added 14 points. Sierra Davis and Charlee Barker added 8 points each. The Bulldogs dominated the boards, outrebounding the Beetdiggers 50-36. Katy Clark and Davis grabbed 10 rebounds each, while Kaufusi added 11 boards.
Provo head coach Amanda Barker said she has a simple strategy to counter the reality that teams will try to shut down Briggs: She relies on the team’s other players.
“They’ve got to be ready to play,” she said. “From the very beginning of the season, Lav can have 40, but if we don’t have two other kids in double digits, we’re going to lose. So Lav had the green light to do what she does best, and then those other kids have go to be able to recognize when she’s taking more heat than we want.”
Kaufusi was the player who helped Briggs deal with some of that heat in Tuesday’s playoff game.
“(She) stepped up tonight and she took over,” Barker said. “She was in double digits.”
Provo had significant contributions from each of its starters, while Jordan had great effort from both the starters and bench. The Beetdiggers were led by Emily Moss, who scored 14 points, while Sarah Niumeitolu added 6 points and nine rebounds, and Diera Walton chipped in 8 points and three rebounds.
Provo jumped out to a great start, thanks in part to Barker’s decision to arrive at the gym about six hours before their game time.
“Last year, I felt like we didn’t get here early enough,” Barker said. “Especially with this gym, all the lines, that’s a harder gym to play (in) than I think we give it credit for, and then with the really short warm up time of 15 minutes, I just felt like the kids needed to get acclimated to their surroundings. … Hopefully it worked because they came out really loose and we played a really good basketball game.”
The win means Provo will face defending 5A champion East in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Both coach and players are thrilled at that opportunity and hope their tough season has prepared them for what they’ll face in the playoffs.
“I love competitiveness,” Barker said. “We had a really tough preseason, one of those things I didn’t really mean to do. … But I’m hoping that is going to help us be ready to keep moving in the tournament.”Comment on this story
If the Bulldogs learned anything from a tough preseason that included losses to Wasatch, Skyridge and Springville, it’s that intensity matters.
“If you don’t show up, you get beat,” she said. “That can go from us to Skyridge to Timpanogos. If you don’t come ready to play, every team is right in it and every team is ready to beat Lav. Every team wants to see if they have the magic to stop her. So we learned that we had do show up every single night, and if we didn’t, we got beat. If we did, then we’re very hard to beat.”