TAYLORSVILLE — The Alta Hawks knew they faced an uphill battle against Skyline in the first round of the 5A girls state basketball tournament Monday, and the results of the first three games of the day didn’t help their cause.
Two No. 1 seeds were upset and fourth-seeded West put a scare into Timpview. Skyline coach Lynette Schroeder made sure her team knew that before they entered the Salt Lake Community College gym. The pep talk worked as the defending champion Eagles dominated the Hawks 59-38.
“I told that to every player. I made sure,” Schroeder emphasized. “We were able to dictate the tempo and got on them early.”
Schroeder said the Eagles also realize they have to earn this year’s title because they feel like a different team, and a late-season home loss to East relegated them to a No. 2 seed from Region 6.
“We’re a different (team), but we can compete with anybody,” said Grange, who has been one of the Eagles’ most-consistent scorers. She had 22 points in Skyline’s 58-47 win over Alta in early December and has reached double figures in her last 10 games.
Not surprisingly, Grange and Mooney were the stalwarts early. The Eagles (18-6) never trailed but couldn’t put a lot of distance between themselves and Alta until the second quarter when Barrett Jessop got hot from the perimeter. She nailed three treys during an 18-3 run and by halftime the outcome was decided as Skyline had a 41-19 lead.
“We were just happy to be here,” admitted Alta coach Elizabeth Gustafson, whose team finished 6-17 overall. The Hawks, however, started the year 1-11 but gained a lot of confidence with three straight late-season wins over Brighton, Jordan and Cottonwood to make the tourney.
“Skyline … they’re a perennial and they’ll go far. None of our girls have ever been here. Now, we can learn what it takes to make it here and what it’s like. Maybe this (experience) will pay off in the future.”
Alta was paced by Mattea Sete’s 13 points, while Marlee Albrecht added 11. The Hawks, however, shot just 25 percent from the field and were badly outrebounded trying to match up against the 6-foot-2 Mooney.
When they did double-team her, that left Grange and Jessop open. Grange’s scoring wasn’t a surprise but Jessop’s long-distance ability may have been to everyone except her teammates. Jessop had just nine three-pointers all season.
“She can make those shots when she gets the opportunities,” Schroeder said.
Jessop and the Eagles will get their next chance Wednesday at 5:50 p.m. against Springville, a No. 4 seed that upended Roy 42-32.
Bruce Smith grew up in Boise, Idaho, and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high-school sports articles for the Deseret News.