WEST JORDAN — Yes, they're still the champs. They will be until someone takes it away from them. But both Layton and Payson were playing with completely different squads from those that donned uniforms for the 5A and 4A trophy holders last year.
In the year's first game, annually played between the 4A and 5A champs, it was Layton that finally took hold and grabbed the contest in the fourth quarter, 47-41, ending the Payson winning streak. But Layton was without all five of its starters from last season, and the Lions were without UVSC guard and last year's 4A MVP Sandy Marvin and Mallory Bateman, who hit a key 3-pointer to garner the victory over Timpview in last year's championship game.
The two teams also looked like they were playing in the first game of the year. Turnovers plagued both teams, as neither seemed able to cope with pressing defenses. Jitters and youth also played a part in making the game appear to be exactly what it was.
But as the game wore on, Layton was able to take more advantage of the press and their height. Rebounds and turnovers led to plenty of Lancer points and exposed the Lions' inexperience.
The Lancers were led by sophomore sensation Sheila Adams, who came in late in the first quarter and scored 18 points to lead the team. She went on a run in the second quarter and looked unstoppable as she racked up 12 of her team's 16 points in the period.
"She's a great contributor and capable of having a great game every night because she's a great athlete," said Layton coach Rob Reisbeck. "We're going to count on her being able to produce like that every night."
He can also count on junior guard Amber Strong, who dropped in 14 points. But none was more important than the high-arching 3 she swished to give the Lancers a 43-38 lead they never relinquished.
"That's her favorite shot," her coach noted. "She has the green light for that one whenever she's open."
Senior Kellee Watson also added 12 points to give the Lancers three double-figure scorers. For a young team that's just trying to prepare for league season with tough preseason games, "we fought hard," said Reisbeck.
On the other side of the court, the Payson Lions are depending on returning starter Aubrey Orton, their inside presence, to lead them through the tough times. Orton was able to manage a game-high tying 18 points, but her teammates couldn't add much to the board. Jannifer Bylund, who had some varsity experience last year, added nine points, but that was about it offensively.
"We were a little disorganized and showed a lack of experience," said Payson coach Dave Hiatt. "We've gotta make sure that we get to the places we need to be to do our job, and we didn't do that tonight."
But Hiatt wasn't completely disappointed in the effort as he was impressed with performances by a couple of freshmen who worked hard and put in a good effort.