TAYLORSVILLE — Corner Canyon’s semifinal battle began a couple of hours before their game against Skyridge tipped off.
“Our bus went to Jordan High School, so we were 30 minutes later than what we thought, and we had to rush,” said Chargers head coach Jeramy Acker after his team won a 58-53 thriller over the Falcons to advance to the 5A championship game, where they will meet defending champion East. “It kind of threw us helter-skelter, I think, a little bit mentally. We came in just a little bit frazzled. … As coaches and players, we all have our little tendencies and our routines, and then when you throw in a wrench into that routine, it sometimes doesn't work so well. But I'm really proud of all of our girls for persevering, playing through it, believing in each other and trusting in the family.”
The game was a physical, back-and-forth one from the start, with the largest lead just 8 points.
While senior Kemery Martin didn’t seem to struggle with the disruption to their routine, some of the team’s other players had to fight through both the Falcon defense and their own mental struggles.
“I think she's been wanting a little redemption since she was a freshman, (when) she lost in the semifinals,” Acker said. “She's always wanted to be able to kind of shine in the big moment. … And I love that about her. But she was also a coach on the floor. You know, she's in general, when her teammates were having some issues. She went directly to them and she was trying to coach them up.”
Among those she reached out to was senior forward Jaeden Vaifanua, who had just 3 of her 14 points until the fourth quarter.
“Personally, I was more frustrated with myself,” the Wyoming commit said. “Just shots I could make in my sleep, just weren't falling at all. And I've been doing fairly well throughout the tournament, so I was getting frustrated with myself. But at halftime a lot of teammates and coaches built me back up because I hadn’t played that bad in a while.”
Vaifanua may not have been scoring the way she normally does, but she never stopped competing. She finished with seven blocked shots and nine rebounds, while Martin led all scorers with 29 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Megan Astle added 9 points, and Baylee Bodily earned a team-high 10 rebounds.1 comment on this story
Skyridge was led by Marisa Bowman, who scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Ally Blackham, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Skylee Gray chipped in nine points, four assists and two steals.
To deal with the frustration of the late bus, Acker told the players to do the best warm up they could in their locker room at Corner Canyon. They discussed the situation and the need to put it behind them and take the court calm and confident.
“But that’s the hard part, right?” he said. “In the locker room before the game, we had to take a moment and just silence, breathe, focus. And I think that kind of helped.”