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High school girls basketball: Corner Canyon have endured hardships to taste success

Annie Bowen, Hannah Sanderson and Nicole Critchfield were in eighth grade. Corner Canyon High School had just opened up, and the Chargers went 0-21 their first year in girls basketball. The following year as freshmen, the three all saw significant varsity time. They didn’t win a single region game that year, and at the end of Year 2 they were 0-24 in Region 7 action. If that wasn’t bad enough, the three were informed that their coach, Megan Leach, was going to step down.

“It was scary because it’s hard to trust a brand-new coach. I was sad to see Coach Leach go because I knew she cared about us a lot,” said Critchfield.

Bowen added, “Coach Leach got it all started. She gave me a chance to play as a freshman. I am very thankful for that.”

Then sophomore coach Jeramy Acker was approached by the Corner Canyon administrators about taking the job as varsity head coach.

“When I first took over we initially wanted to address the mental aspects of the game and our overall physical strength,” said Acker. “Overall, the past three years physically we have implemented strength and conditioning year-round with the emphasis on getting better each day.”

Acker had his girls read two books (“Mindset” and “The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork”) that have helped the Chargers embrace his philosophy; both have helped his girls improve as teammates and get better mentally.

“We did this to emphasize the value of team and family,” Acker said. “Mistakes will happen for all of us and how we respond matters more if we are all in it together and support each other.”

When asked what has changed in the past year or two, Critchfield said, “We trust each other, we play for each other, we want to win for each other. But we practice, we lift, we watch film, we do sports psychology. We do whatever we need to do to be the most successful team we can be together.”

Sanderson added, “We put in nonstop work even when we weren’t winning. We spent lots of time in the gym and in the weight room. We’ve played hours and hours together, which has helped us come together.”

Bowen, Sanderson and Critchfield are now seniors. They are joined by fellow seniors Ashlyn Bird, Alyssa Crow and Andi Humble on a team that hopes to take huge leaps this season. And with two very talented juniors (Kemery Martin – 20.7 ppg and Jaeden Vaifanua – 14.7 ppg), the Chargers look like a team that might do just that.

Corner Canyon is off to a 4-0 start this year, and in the latest Deseret News rankings, is No. 2 in the state in all classifications. The Chargers just defeated 4A’s then-No. 1 ranked Mountain View, a team Corner Canyon had gone 0-8 against in Region 7 action over the previous four years — with an average margin of defeat of 26 points in those eight games.

“We want to win the championship because we think we have the talent and we are all supportive of each other and our roles,” said Bowen.

Bowen, Sanderson and Critchfield agree that one of the keys to success this year is to take things one day at a time: “We start small, we talk about getting better every day, taking it one game at a time,” said Sanderson.

If they can keep things going the way they have started, look for the Chargers to be right where they want to be in late February: contending for a state title.

The Chargers will host the “Corner Canyon Winter Classic” this weekend and will test themselves against some of the best teams in Utah. They will host Taylorsville on Thursday, Riverton on Friday, and Copper Hills on Saturday.

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