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Pioneers moving from basement to top of 3A

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SANDY — Winning isn't just something you do, it's something you think.

At least that's what second-year coach Mike O'Connor has been telling the Lehi girls basketball team for the past two years. His theory is that if you're going to win, you need to believe you can, and it's taken the Pioneers from the basement to one of the top five teams in the 3A classification.

"You have to instill an attitude and an ability that you know how to win," he said after the Pioneers defeated a feisty Juan Diego team 71-55. "Last year we were in every game, and it built to where we're at right now."

He said it also helps to have a "pretty nice freshman" in forward Michelle Harrison. The youngster played with the calm of a seasoned veteran against a very physical team that never quit despite being down by double digits almost the entire game. Harrison had a monster game and finished with 17 points, 10 blocks and eight rebounds.

But against a team that worked as hard as the Soaring Eagle it took all of Lehi's players contributing to win. Tiffany Gray and Megan Heriford were outstanding on defense and handling the ball. Gray finished with five steals and Heriford had six. They added 10 and nine points, respectively, too. Teammate Andrea Durrant grabbed nine rebounds.

" We were smart," O'Connor said of his team's ability to withstand constant pressure and several great runs by Juan Diego. "We could have played smarter at times . . . But we never panicked."

And there were moments when panic was warranted. In the second half, sophomore guard Jessica Smith found her perimeter shot and almost everything she launched into the air fell through the hoop. She finished with a game-high 25 points. But it was the team's aggressive press and defense that earned them some offensive opportunities.

Lehi senior guard Heriford said the 2A school had obviously done its homework.

"You've got to give it to them," said Heriford shaking her head. "They had our numbers picked. They wanted to win. They were calling me by name the whole game."

O' Connor said it's not just Heriford's tenacious defense that sets the tone for Lehi.

"Megan brings an attitude, that feistiness, that carries over to the whole team," he said.

Both Heriford and Harrison said they might have come into the game a little over confident.

"I was ready to come out and play a nice, fun easy-going game," Harrison said. Both girls laughed and then said it is their team unity that keeps them calm in situations like Thursday's.

"We have a dogfight in 3A," Heriford said. "I think everybody is stepping it up a bit. We have all of our players contributing and we're a really close team."

The Soaring Eagle also relied on about 14 players and their strategy to outrun the Pioneers. Their defensive play was led by players like Natalye Blackwell, Heather Dahlman, Jessica Smith and Whitney Spooner.

"That's how we play," said Soaring Eagle coach Bob Lyons. "We run up and down the floor. And that's what kept us in so many games."

Juan Diego is also a team struggling to establish itself and has made some tremendous comebacks against bigger schools. Juan Diego hasa 4-6 record, but that's deceiving about how good this team is. It begins region play next Tuesday against Rowland Hall.

In other games Thursday:

REGION 4

ROY 49, SKY VIEW 45 (OT): The Royals had 18 steals in their overtime victory against Region 4 foe Sky View to improve to 2-0 in region and 8-4 overall.

BONNEVILLE 62, MOUNTAIN CREST 57: The Lakers improved to 2-0 in Region 4 as Carly Garrett recorded 20 points. The Lakers outscored the Mustangs 17-11 in the fourth quarter.

BOX ELDER 59, LOGAN 45: The Bees outrebounded the Grizzlies to win their first region game. Amanda Haycock led Box Elder with 17 points and nine rebounds.

REGION 8

EMERY 43, DELTA 34: Leading 27-10 at the half, Emery held on for the victory. Emery was led by Jennifer Nielson with 19 points.

REGION 9

SNOW CANYON 34, PINE VIEW 33:Ashley Whitehead buried a shot from the paint with one second remaining to lift the Warriors, who improved to 2-0 in region play.

DIXIE 57, HURRICANE 39:Erin McClean and Heidi Carlsen both netted 19 points in leading the Flyers past the Tigers in an early Region 9 showdown. Dixie improved to 11-1 overall with the win while Hurricane fell to 10-2.

CANYON VIEW 40, CEDAR 25: The Falcons defeated the Redmen in the city rivalry game. Rachel Gentry paced Canyon View with 13 points and the Falcon defense held usual 18-point scorer Tarah Williams to two points.

REGION 11

BEAR RIVER 69, BEN LOMOND 25:Jessica Fronk led with 19 points and 11 boards as Bear River buried the Scots.

MORGAN 85, TOOELE 41:Vera Whitear and Cheryl Blazzard each tallied 15 points as the unbeaten Trojans improved to 13-0 overall and 2-0 in region.

OGDEN 49, GRANTSVILLE 26: The Tigers improved to 2-0 in region with an easy road win.

REGION 13

MILLARD 50, PAROWAN 43:Jami Huntsman and Tiffany Holt paced the Eagles with 16 and 14 points, respectively.

REGION 15

WAYNE 59, ESCALANTE 31:Nicole Blackburn and Ashley Jensen combined for 36 points to lead Wayne.

MILFORD 59, PIUTE 40:Lynette Barnes recorded 23 points to lead the Tigers, who improved to 5-5 overall by beating the winless T-Birds. Piute's Aubrey Lay led all scorers with 28 points.

VALLEY 50, BRYCE VALLEY 42:Nicky Crofts led Valley with 17 points. Valley moved to 5-2 in region with the victory.

REGION 17

MOUNT VERNON 49, ICS 39:Vivian Harris connected on three 3-pointers and finished with 15 points to lead the Patriots to the region win. Katie Spence led ICS with 23 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

SALT LAKE LUTHERAN 64, CHRISTIAN HERITAGE 47: The Lynx's Stacy Knudsvig lit up the Crusaders for 32 points as Salt Lake Lutheran improved to 6-6 overall and 2-3 in Region 17.

LAYTON CHRISTIAN 40, WATERFORD 39: The Eagles made eight fourth-quarter free throws to hold off a late rally by the Ravens. Amy Gray led Layton Christian with 18 points and 16 rebounds, while Taniya Tyson chipped in with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

REGION 18

MERIDIAN 29, WENDOVER 24:Leslie Robertson led all scorers with 16 points to lead the Mongoose to the win. Meridian outscored Wendover 13-0 in the second quarter, which proved to be the difference.

WEST DESERT 45, EAST CARBON 34:Elishia Bronson and Heather Timm each recorded 12 points to lead the Hawks, who improved to 3-2 in Region 18.

DUGWAY 59, TINTIC 46: In a battle of Region 18 unbeaten teams, the Mustangs outscored the Miners 26-10 to pull away for the victory. Tiffanee Fields led Dugway with 17 points.

NONREGION

RICHFIELD 48, ROWLAND HALL 27: Ten Wildcats scored as Cara Cowley led a balanced scoring attack over Rowland Hall. Cowley scored 11 points and Meg Andrews led Rowland Hall in the losing effort with 19 points.

SOUTH SEVIER 60, JUAB 25:Nicki Leavitt and Jenna Ware paced the Rams to the easy road victory with 22 and 19 points respectively.

SPANISH FORK 48, PLEASANT GROVE 27: The Vikings couldn't hit much from the field and the Dons took advantage. Mara Best led Spanish Fork with 19 points.

PROVO 50, TIMPANOGOS 39: Provo scored 22 in the final quarter to get the win.

MOUNTAIN VIEW 90, AMERICAN FORK 14: The Bruin defense and the play of Mallary Gillespie helped demolish the Cavemen. Gillespie scored 36 points, 30 of them off three-pointers and Mountain View stole the ball 16 times. The Bruins are now 9-2 overall.

PANGUITCH 37, ENTERPRISE 33 (OT):Jenna Sawyer's 14 points helped Panguitch get over the hump.

RICH 42, COKEVILLE, WYO. 35: The Rebels improved to .500 at 5-5 with the victory over Cokeville. Sammi Stuart led Rich with 12 points.

DUCHESNE 57, ST. JOSEPH 48:Tai Marett paced the Eagles, scoring 15.

BOYS' GAME

NONREGION

GREEN RIVER 78, GRAND 62: Bowman Mitchell exploded for 27 points, going 12-14 from the line as Green River defeated Grand in non-region action. Green River improved to 8-1 with the win.