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High school girls basketball: Rebounding is key to Davis' upset of Region 2 champion Hunter

TAYLORSVILLE — Davis head basketball coach Anne Jones knew that if the fourth-seeded Darts hoped to upset Region 2 champion Hunter Monday, they had to do one thing better than they have all season — rebound.

“We’ve been preparing all week, and we knew we had to win the battle of the glass,” Jones said after Davis earned a 44-36 victory in the first round of the 5A state basketball tournament at Salt Lake Community College. “I just felt like our kids came out and battled. … I felt like it was our best job all year long of boxing out as a team and getting defensive rebounds. I really felt like that was a huge key for us.” Rebounding is a tough task regardless of the opponent. But Hunter is strong and physical, and that made controlling the glass a constant struggle. Jones credited the Darts’ region opponents for their success Monday.

“We knew it was going to be a physical battle,” Jones said. “We knew Hunter was really talented athletically, we knew they were strong, we knew they were explosive and quick. But we told the girls, ‘We have to win the battle, especially on the boards.’ Playing in Region 1 we really see a lot of different types of talent and physicality, and I think that has prepared us for this also.” One of the toughest defensive tasks the Darts had to manage was trying to slow Wolverines center Kimauri Toia, who at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, is a unique challenge.

“You don’t see anybody like her in the state,” Jones said of Toia, who led Hunter’s scoring with 16 points. “She is not only big and strong, but she’s got a great touch. We knew we couldn’t let her get any deep catches.”

The strategy was to have Davis’ guards put so much pressure on Hunter’s guards that they’d have a hard time seeing Toia and therefore passing to her.

“We didn’t want her getting any deep catches because when she does, she’s probably going to score 99 percent of the time because she’s got such a great touch,” Jones said.

While Toia led the Wolverines, the Darts were led by senior guard Kayley Neilson, who finished with 20 points. She played the entire game and provided calm leadership when the fourth quarter was both messy and frenetic. Both teams played tough defensively, while they also made mistakes, and in the final quarter they had just one field goal between both teams.

“I think it says a lot (about) Kayley Neilson,” Jones said. “She is our floor general and she’s just a really smart player. … She feels the game and makes really good decisions. I thought she did an awesome job tonight.” Neilson said the tournament is her favorite part of the season. “I think it’s everyone’s favorite part of the season,” Neilson said. “So we were just excited to play. We didn’t really care who we were playing. Hunter is a really good team, and they put up a really good fight.”

Jones was proud of the effort offered by her players, even when momentum wasn’t swinging in their favor.

“I told the girls, ‘They’re a first-place finisher, so they know how to win,’ ” Jones said. “And they’re going to win if we don’t come in and find a way to get it done on the defensive end.”

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