It was a big deal for us to win this and show everybody what we’re made of. – Box Elder guard Keslee Stevenson
TAYLORSVILLE — Keslee Stevenson knows Box Elder’s first-round playoff win wasn’t very pretty.
But it showed their grit, and it may be just the thing that helps the Bees break a bad habit of simply responding to what their opponents do, rather than playing the kind of game of which they’re capable.
“They were playing super hard, and specifically that part where, you know, they got within three,” said guard Keslee Stevenson after Box Elder earned a 69-62 win over Corner Canyon at Salt Lake Community College Tuesday. “I think that was making all of our hearts race pretty hard. So, it was a big deal for us to win this and show everybody what we’re made of.”
Stevenson led the Bees with 27 points in a game in which Box Elder never trailed, but it was also never completely in hand. Corner Canyon made some impressive runs behind sophomore Jaeden Vaifanua’s 27 points, Hannah Sanderson’s 13 points, and Annie Bowen’s 10 points.
The Bees were coming off their first region title since 1981, and for that and the potential to make more history, coaches expected a little more fire.
“I thought the girls lacked a little bit of energy,” said Box Elder head coach Aaron Dooley. “Especially defensively, … if we don’t play with more energy in the next round, it will turn out bad for us.” He credited Corner Canyon for pushing the Bees.
“They were fighting for their lives, and they did a great job,” Dooley said. “They came out, they played hard and they did some great things with effort. I mean, offensive rebounding, … they did a great job controlling what they could control.”
Dooley blamed some of the issues on the unique atmosphere of the state tournament, including the morning games.
“But maybe we just weren’t quite as prepared as we could have been emotionally for what was about to happen,” Dooley said. “Probably as a coaching staff, we need to sit down and make sure we’re ready to go to play the winner of this next game.”
He said the team has struggled all season to play well consistently because they focus more on responding to their opponent than on what they can do.
“We’ve got to get better at that,” he said. “I think a championship team, which is what we want to be, doesn’t do that. So we’ve got to be a little smarter, and just find a way … to make sure everybody is ready to go.”
Stevenson said she knows they are out of time when it comes to addressing their issues on the court.
“The state title is always in our mindset,” she said. “It’s in everyone’s mindset, so you’ve got to fight and every team here is good. So we’ve got to fight.”