I haven't watched as many girls basketball games this year as I did the past two seasons. I've relied much more on writer Jaci Olsen to carry most of that load.
This has allowed me to focus more on boys sports and has allowed Olsen to become much more in tune with the girls teams. However, this also means I don't have as much first-hand knowledge of the girls teams or players as I have in the past. I've had to go by what Olsen, coaches and others are saying.
This is what I've been hearing from all corners.
I hear the Payson Lions have the school's best team ever and have the potential, with Sandy Marvin and Aubrey Orton, and a swarming defense, to win it all. With the exception of the Timpview game, their sole loss, they've pretty much blown away every other opponent. Dave Hiatt is one of the most respected and liked coaches in the valley and state, but I already knew that.
I hear that the Timpview Thunderbirds looked ragged at times early on, but might be the state's best team right now. The holiday trip to Arizona really helped. Most tell me that Lindsey Freeze is having the valley's top individual year so far. With Anadeliz Pares and Jessica Harmon as support, and the emergence of freshman Alexus Kaufusi, this could be the T-Birds' year.
I'm told the Provo Bulldogs are much improved and have a great inside game with Cassie King, but struggle against high-scoring teams. Orem seems to be everyone's sleeper, with new coach Ross Reed getting great results from a balanced lineup.
Now for Mountain View, the state's perennial basketball power. I've been told by many that the Bruins are not as dominant as they've been in past seasons. Most feel the Bruins are beatable this year. In other words, you other teams, you do have a chance — albeit the chance is comparable to the same one Jim Carrey had of getting the girl's heart in the movie "Dumb and Dumber."
I know this is a touchy topic, but it's still what people are saying, so I'll touch on it. Many feel the Bruins have benefited greatly by the move-ins of players Michelle Harrison, Nubia Garcia and Maylene Ornelas. Without those three additions, many feel the Bruins would no longer be the state's top team and their dominance would have ended.
I decided last week that it was time to check some of this stuff out for myself, see if others know what they are talking about, so I went to Mountain View's game against Timpanogos last week. Here's what I think now.
The Bruins are probably still the state's top team, even though I agree they appear to be more beatable this year than the past few seasons. I say that mainly because I didn't see a Bruins player that matched the athleticism of the past two winners of Ms. Basketball — former Bruins Heather Hansen and Mallary Gillespie. The Bruins defense was fantastic, but they didn't seem as potent on offense.
As for how vital the three move-in players are to the Bruins' success this season? I'd say very. In fact, the three pretty much carried the entire load that night. Here's their numbers from that game. Harrison scored 16 points. Ornelas had 15, including three deep 3-pointers. Garcia had six points, seven rebounds and seven steals. Garcia's all-around game was especially impressive and I expect she's getting plenty of attention from D1 coaches. But face it, we'll never know how Mountain View would be faring this season without the three new players, and at this point, it really accomplishes little to speculate.
I say we all just sit back and watch as matters are settled on the court in the next few weeks. Should be a great show.
THE WOUNDED T-WOLVES: After a very promising start, the Timpanogos T-Wolves are seriously limping. Three starters are out with injuries — two for the remainder of the season.
Center Candice Martin separated her shoulder before the season and re-injured it again last week, ending her year. Guard Mandy Valora tore up her knee in a recent game against American Fork and she also won't return this season.
Leading scorer Jennifer Harris has a seriously sprained ankle, played very little against Mountain View, and probably won't play for at least another week.