SALT LAKE CITY — The Box Elder Bees are no strangers to close and competitive games. After all, more than half of their preseason and regular season contests, 13 of 23 total games, were decided by single digits.
Many of those contests came in region play, standing as a testament to the parity of Region 5, as well as the talent of the four teams that qualified for the postseason.
Despite finishing fourth in the region, and subsequently receiving a No. 4 seed in the 5A state tournament, that region gauntlet proved beneficial to the Bees.
At least, that appeared to be the case Monday morning at Salt Lake Community College.
Led by star Emily Isaacson, Box Elder overcame a seven-point fourth quarter deficit and pulled out yet another close victory, this time over the top-seeded Skyridge Falcons, 60-53.
Isaacson finished with a game-high 27 points, while Andreanna McKee chipped in 13. Kambri Curtis added an additional 10 points for Box Elder, while Morgan Reeder scored all seven of her points in the game’s deciding period.
“We’ve been there. Every game that we played (this season) seemed like it was a tight game,” said Box Elder head coach Aaron Dooley. “We have been in tight games with some of the best in the state. I am just proud of the girls for pulling this one out.”
“We came in as a fourth seed and we wanted to show what we were made of,” added Isaacson. “We’ve been in a lot of tough games this year and I am just so happy that all of our hard work has paid off, that we finished out that game strong.”
Through three quarters, the Bees trailed the Falcons, who tied for first place in Region 8 with Wasatch and Provo.
Skyridge star Marisa Bowman had proved herself a load, having scored 16 of her eventual 20 points.
She was especially impressive in the third quarter, in which she dropped eight points.
Thanks in large part to Bowman’s efforts, Skyridge outscored Box Elder 18-13 in the third frame, overcoming a one-point halftime deficit in the process.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Falcons picked up right where they left off, eventually stretching their lead to seven.
As the lower seed and underdog, the Bees could have packed up and gone home at that point. Instead, they rallied, taking comfort from the lessons they had learned throughout the season.
“We just needed to get a stop and then get a bucket,” Dooley said. “(I knew) that once we started creating some momentum that we would be fine.”
They got more than just a bucket. Reeder, scoreless up to that point, drilled back to back clutch jumpers, cutting the Falcons lead to four.
“Morgan’s shots were huge,” said Dooley. “They were big in those moments.”
A few possessions and made baskets by Isaacson and McKee later, and the Bees had a lead they would not relinquish.
“Everyone competed,” said Isaacson. “We are peaking right now and that is the best (you can ask for).”
Of his star player, Dooley noted, “We rely on her. We do. We love (Emily) and like what she brings for us. She can handle the ball and she can shoot the ball. That makes her a tough matchup for other teams to deal with."
“We are not surprised by it,” Dooley continued. “She’s up a little bit north and maybe people don’t hear about her as much as we do, but she is just a great kid. She works her tail off. It is not by accident.”
It was not by accident that the Bees were able to pull out the close victory either, and they will have yet another opportunity to prove their mettle, this time in the 5A quarterfinals, where Box Elder is slated to face off against the Timpview T-Birds, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at SLCC.