TAYLORSVILLE — Skyridge head basketball coach Khalil Sikander thought his team might need to do something special to shut down Murray’s standout Isis Beh.
As it turned out, the Falcons just needed to be the best version of themselves to earn a spot in Friday’s semifinals.
“We went a box-and-one and changed our defense up, something that we don't do a lot,” Sikander said after the Falcons earned a 67-52 victory over the Spartans in Thursday’s quarterfinals. “And we kind of got (Beh) uncomfortable, and we felt like we did enough in that first quarter to kind of ... take her out of her comfort zone and then in that second quarter we just went back to who we were, and do the things that we love to do and put a lot of pressure on the other team, just try to mix up the defenses.”
Murray’s effort and Skyridge playing out of system created a situation that allowed the Spartans to jump out to a 14-8 advantage in the first quarter.
But Sikander said they returned to the man-to-man defense that earned them a region title, and they played with more confidence and effectiveness on both ends of the floor.
“We (normally) play a lot of man, do a lot of trapping,” he said. “We're a small team. I don't have a girl who's over 5-10. ... We try to play to our advantage and play to our strengths in that second, third and fourth quarter and we got them uncomfortable enough to make them turn the ball over a bunch and you got some good steals.”
The Falcons’ defensive effort fueled their offensive success, an effort led by Brooklynn Lundell. The junior was tasked with guarding Beh when the team played the box-and-one defense in the first quarter.
“Honestly, I think it really helps her game out because she's a pleaser, she just loves to do whatever we tell her to do,” Sikander said. “And so we told her to focus on this one job tonight and it actually paid off for her offensively too because she had a great offensive game.”
Lundell was the team’s second-leading scorer with 14 points. Marisa Bowman led the team’s offense, coming off the bench to score 16 points and grab eight rebounds. Ally Blackham added nine points and nine rebounds, while Skylee Gray earned six assists in the win.
For Murray, Beh led the team with 15 points, just two under her average, while Sarah Dudley added 10 points. Ileah Beh led the team in rebounding with seven boards.
Sikander said Lundell’s defense led to some great transition opportunities for both her and her teammates.
“She’s one of the most coachable kids we’ve got in the program,” he said of the junior. “She's one of our leaders; she communicates with our team; she's unselfish; just all those little intangibles that you ask the kids to do, she does it and that's a big reason why our team (has) become close.”
The Falcons don’t have a star on their roster, but they don’t need one when they play together.
“Great results happen because of it,” he said of the trust the players have in each other.
While the Falcons may be without that high-profile player, they certainly know how to play against a star, thanks to region rival Provo.Comment on this story
“I think our region has prepared us for this moment, because we played against Lavender Briggs two times this year,” Sikander said of the senior who leads the classification in scoring. “So we knew how to play and guard a really, really tough player, and so I just told my girls, ‘We've been here before, we know how to do this. I just have the confidence and belief that you can still do it, like it doesn't matter where we are, whether at home or here in this building. If we stick to our game plan, do the things that we've been taught all season, good things are going to happen.’”
The win gives Skyridge the opportunity to play against Corner Canyon in Friday’s semifinal, where they’ll get another chance to take on one of the state’s best players in Utah-bound Kemery Martin.