SANDY — One after the other, Kemery Martin’s outside shots kept missing on Friday night.
The confidence Alta’s coaches showed in the sophomore never wavered though. Even though she’d only made 3 of 20 shots through the first three and a half quarters against Skyline, Martin still had the green light to shoot.
“Any time I’m talking to Kemery, I’m encouraging her, and telling her she will knock down the next one,” said Alta coach Izzy Gustafson.
Martin eventually did knock down the next one. She buried a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter, a huge bucket that swung moment in Alta’s favor for good as it pulled away from Skyline for the 60-50 victory to improve to 3-0 this preseason.
Martin’s 3-pointer with 4:27 remaining stretched Alta’s lead to 48-44, and 20 seconds later Mattea Sete drained a three of her own to push the lead to 51-44.
“Once Kemery hit that three it just ignited the entire gym, you heard the crowd, our bench got all excited, all five of us coaches got excited. That was the game changer in the fourth that extended that lead big time,” said Gustafson.
Martin, who was Alta’s top 3-point threat as a freshman last season, only finished with one basket that wasn’t at the rim, but it proved to be the difference on Friday.
Until Alta’s clutch back-to-back 3-pointers, it appeared the game would be decided in the final minute. Thanks to poor free-throw shooting from both teams, neither squad led by more than five points through the first three quarters, which included seven lead changes.
The Hawks made a mini run early in the fourth quarter, stretching the lead to 45-39 with three quick lay-ups, but Skyline answered back on a 3-pointer from Hannah Anderl and a lay-up by Barrett Jessop, cutting the deficit to 45-44 with 4:49 remaining.
That set the stage for Martin’s heroics. She finished with 12 points for the Hawks, while Kacey Blackner led the way with 14.
After Martin’s 3-pointer, visiting Skyline only made one basket, which Gustafson attributes to the intensity the basket created.
“Our rotation, our intensity and our effort changed after that shot,” said Gustafson.
“Team camaraderie. The notion that they understand they need to work together to be successful. It’s not one person trying to outplay others, it’s all five of them working together trying to get the open shot,” said Gustafson.
That camaraderie has led to double-digit wins over American Fork, Lone Peak and Skyline this preseason, and the schedule doesn’t let up, with Fremont, Sky View, Bingham and Judge coming up later this month.
“We tried to load up our preseason schedule to get us going for the season, we don’t just want to get going slowly,” said Gustafson.
Skyline had three players score in double figures in the loss, led by Jessop’s 13 points.