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High school girls basketball: Numerous athletes scoring at historic levels

Something quite common happened on multiple basketball courts across the state last Friday, but the fact it keeps happening is what makes it that much more extraordinary. It’s more confirmation that this is the golden age of girls basketball talent in the state of Utah.

Salem Hills’ Lauren Gustin scored 33 points in a win over Lehi, the eighth game this season the Idaho commit has scored at least 30 points.

Provo’s Lavender Briggs scored 29 points in a win over Timpanogos, the fifth time this season she’s scored at least that many points.

Up in Heber City in the same night, Maple Mountain’s Maddy Eaton was doing everything she could for the Golden Eagles as she scored 30 points in the region road loss. It was the fourth game in the past five the junior has scored at least 30 points.

Not to be outdone, Roy’s Josie Williams scored 29 points as the Royals took care of visiting Box Elder.

The quartet is part of a collection of talented athletes the state hasn’t seen in quite some time, maybe ever.

“The scoring in the state from 4A to 6A is so impressive. I feel like the state has been in a slump as far as basketball talent for the last few years with players here and there who are something special. This year there are so many players both guards and posts who can score. It really makes the games fun with girls playing at such a high level of basketball,” said Mountain View coach Alexis Kaufusi.

Along with Mountain View’s Tahlia White, West Ridge’s Xayla Stoppani, Corner Canyon’s Kemery Martin, Viewmont’s Mercedes Staples, Parowan’s Autumn Rogerson and North Summit’s Kennady McQueen, there are 10 girls basketball players who are averaging over 20 points this season.

A year ago only two athletes finished the season averaging over 20 points, and the year before it was five. In fact, not once in the past 17 years have 10 players finished the season averaging over 20 points.

The most was seven which happened in both the 2009-2010 season and the 2010-2011 season.

That 2010-2011 season included some incredible talent, with six of the seven 20-point scorers moving on to play college basketball led by Springville’s Lexi Eaton (BYU), Syracuse’s Brittney Martin (Oklahoma State) and Alta’s Makenzi Morrison (BYU).

Eaton was the only player among those seven to average over 23 points, as she finished with 28.7 ppg — the single-season high in the past decade.

In fact, in the past decade, only three players have finished the season averaging over 25 points. Lexi Eaton in both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 season, and then her younger sister Liz Eaton two years ago.

Fast forward to this season, and five players are threatening to eclipse the 25-point plateau.

Gustin leads the state with 28.4 ppg, followed by Stopanni (27.0 ppg), Briggs (25.6 ppg), Maddy Eaton (25.5 ppg) and Williams (25.2 ppg).

Logic says some of those averages will come down as defenses tighten up now that region play has started, but that was far from the case last Friday.

Mountain View’s White leads the six athletes averaging between 20 and 25 points as she’s at 22.5 ppg through 11 games. Corner Canyon’s Martin (21.6 ppg), Viewmont’s Staples (20.4 ppg), Parowan’s Rogerson (20.8 ppg) and North Summit’s McQueen (20.2 ppg) are each hovering just about 20 points.

All six scored slightly above their averages in their most recent games.

“As a coach, it’s fun to coach and work with girls who are at that level. Specifically two of my girls, Tahlia and Skye (Lindsay) who are signed to play D1 ball. It’s been huge for my younger players to get to play against D1 talent every single day in practice. I hope they understand just how big of a deal that is. It’s really nice to see the level of play raised back to where it is right now,” said Kaufusi.

What makes the depth of the scoring talent that much more impressive is a bit of historical context. From the 2002-2003 season to the 2007-2008 season there were a grand total of eight players who averaged 20-plus points. Ten are threatening to eclipse that mark this year alone.

The top 10 aren’t just one dimensional either. Gustin also leads the state in rebounding (15.9 rpg), while Williams and Briggs also rank in the top seven in rebounding.

Several of the other athletes are among the state’s best in assists and steals.