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Girls 5A basketball: Defense powers Woods Cross to tournament-opening victory over Wasatch


TAYLORSVILLE — Woods Cross capped off a wild, upset-filled opening round at the 5A girls basketball state tournament, defeating Wasatch 40-30 on Monday night at Salt Lake Community College.

Seeing Highland celebrate after defeating Corner Canyon in the game before made Woods Cross' Olivia Barton want to have that same feeling after the Wildcats' first game of the tournament.

“It gets your nerves going a little bit, but I think, mostly, it just gets you excited, because you see how excited they are, after Highland beat them (Corner Canyon), and you just want that. It got me excited and got me ready to play,” Barton said.

Barton led all scorers with 17 points, 13 of which came in the first half, which helped the Wildcats climb out of an early deficit.

“She’s just solid. I ask her all the time, ‘Are you okay, are you okay?’,” Woods Cross head coach David Simon said. “She doesn’t ever get tired, so — we did this against Roy, as well — we put a little pressure on the guards, that just disrupts a little bit, and she can handle it, and she knows what to do, and she can run with them, she’s just solid.”

The theme of the game was defense. Woods Cross held Wasatch to 30 points on 26.5 percent shooting, and didn’t allow the Wasps to make a 3-pointer all game.

“We held them to 30, that’s pretty solid,” Simon said.

In turn, Wasatch limited Woods Cross to just 25.5 percent shooting from the field, but the Wildcats made 81 percent of their free throws, compared to the Wasps’ 63 percent shooting from the charity stripe.

“We always have a goal to score 50, we feel like if we can score 50, then we’re in pretty good shape. I just talked to them about that, I’m like, ‘Hey, I changed our goal to 40, just there at the end,” Simon said.

“We just work hard, I think that’s the just the key, everyone is just working hard. Talking is big, because when we talk, that’s when we start getting turnovers,” Barton added.

After Wasatch jumped out to a 9-6 lead in the first quarter, Woods Cross stormed back in the second quarter, outscoring the Wasps 15-6 in the period to take a 21-15 halftime lead. The Wildcats were led by Barton, who scored 13 points in the half, while Wasatch’s Alexa Mackay was the team’s high scorer at halftime with five points. Woods Cross took 11 more shots than Wasatch in the half.

The Wildcats kept their foot on the gas in the third quarter, outscoring Wasatch 11-7 to take a 10-point lead into the final period.

In the fourth quarter, a Faith Fitzgerald layup energized the Wasps faithful, but Rilee Aiono came back with a layup of her own to push the lead back to seven. A Mackenzie McBride shot trimmed the lead to just five, but Allee McKenna drove through traffic for a bucket, which effectively iced the game.

Up next, Woods Cross will take on Highland on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 2:30 p.m. at Salt Lake Community College.