TAYLORSVILLE — The East High girls basketball team has so many talented players that the real challenge doesn't always come from an opposing team.
But years of playing together and genuine friendships have created the kind of unity that make that depth a kind of not-so-secret weapon.
“I'm proud of these girls,” said head coach Olosaa Solovi after East ran away with a 73-44 5A quarterfinal win over Provo. “They did an excellent job. It's taken a total team effort for all of these guys. And we got some real good players here. But they’re super unselfish.”
Solovi knows it could be a different story if his players cared more about their individual stats then they do the team's success.
“We have a lot of players who could be selfish,” the coach said. “So you know the fact that these guys, you know, move the ball and get it to an open player is a testament to them and their character. You know, the families that raised them well.”
East had a strategic decision to make before Thursday’s quarterfinal as they faced a Bulldog team led by Lavender Briggs, the state’s leading scorer.
“We just have a lot of respect for what she does and we knew we weren't going to have an answer to really stop her,” he said. “It was just trying to take the mindset of, 'Hey, just be aware of where she's at; let's just try to make it tough for her.' She's just kind of a player that you just try to contain as much as you can. That is really all you could do. She's impressive.”
Luckily East’s defense was pretty impressive, including the full-court press that yielded more points than their set offense in the win.
The Leopards held Briggs to 12 points, almost a third of her 30-point average. Briggs also grabbed 11 rebounds, while Lia Kaufusi added 13 points and six rebounds.
“We thought about doing some different stuff, but we just kind of just said, ‘Hey, let's just do what we do,’” Solovi said. “It's one day, or you know, like an hour practice. It wasn't going to do anything to try to change anything.”
East was led by Lealani Falatea, who scored 21 points and earned five steals, and Precious Faamausili, who scored 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Margarita Satini added 12 points and four steals.
“We all know that she's a great player, but we didn't want to change our entire team around one player because if we just focus on one player, then (her) teammates are going to go off. So we played our game.”1 comment on this story
Falatea said their confidence came from doing what they’ve trained all year to do.
“I think we're all super excited, you know, we've been preparing ourselves for this week this entire season,” she said.
She said they don’t have to work at trying to share the ball because their friendship gives them confidence in each other.
“I think it's just that all of us, like, not even just our starters, all our core players,” she said, “we all just trust each other with the ball. So (we) just have really good chemistry.”
The win means East will play in Friday’s semifinals.